Iran's UN envoy on Thursday accused Israel of abusing a Saudi-sponsored UN interfaith conference for political purposes and suggested the Jewish state had no right to take part.
Speaking on the second day of the meeting, which earlier heard US President George W. Bush call for worldwide religious freedom, Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee did not name Israel, but left no doubt what country he had in mind.
Peres in the same room with King Abdullah (Photo: Moshe Millner, GPO)
"The representative of a regime (whose) short history is marked with ... aggression, occupation, assassination, state terrorism and torture against the Palestinian people, under the pretext of a false interpretation of a divine religion, has tried to abuse this meeting for its narrow political purposes," he said.
Khazaee was referring to Israeli President Shimon Peres, who took the rare opportunity of being in the same room as Saudi King Abdullah on Wednesday to praise a Saudi peace initiative that he said brought hope to the Middle East.
"The participation of such a regime not only has no benefit to our common purpose, but, as proved in this very meeting, will give them a chance to try to disrupt the current process to divert our attention from our mandate" to improve dialogue between different religions, Khazaee said.
Disappointed by Peres
Khazaee's speech stood out at the two-day meeting of the UN General Assembly, convened at the request of the Saudi monarch, not only because of its accusatory language, but because it failed to praise Abdullah.
Last goodbye. Peres with US President George W. Bush and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (Photo: Moshe Millner, GPO)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal reacted coolly to Peres' remarks. "The disappointing side of President Peres' comment is that he chose parts of the Arab peace plan and left other parts untouched," he told reporters.
Earlier Bush, in what was almost certainly his last UN address, proclaimed religious freedom as the foundation of a healthy society and defended the US record in protecting Muslims caught up in foreign conflicts.