TEHRAN, (Agencies) — Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Palestinian militant chiefs on Saturday that sustained resistance was the key to liberating their land.
“Palestine, surely and definitely, will be freed by sustained resistance from the people of Palestine and by maintaining unity among jihadist groups,” Khamenei said.
He met Hamas political leader Khaled Mishal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah, and the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) Ahmed Jibril, all of whom live in exile.
Khamenei said that “supporters of the Zionist regime will have nothing but shame and a bad name in history.”
The three militant leaders are attending a conference organised by Iran in support of the Palestinians. Iran does not recognise Israel and is a staunch backer of Palestinian militant groups.
Tensions have soared between Iran and Israel since hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005.
Ahmadinejad has drawn international condemnation by predicting that Israel is doomed to disappear and dismissing the Holocaust as a “myth,” while Israel has refused to rule out military action to prevent Iran developing a nuclear bomb.
In other news, an insurgent group in southeastern Iran announced the selection of a new leader after its founder was captured by Iranian forces, according to the group’s Web site.
The Jundallah insurgency, which says it’s fighting for equal rights for the Sunni minority in southeast Iran, has named al-Hajj Mohammed Dhahir Baluch as the new leader.
“The movement is more than its leader,” said the statement posted in Arabic Saturday. “With firm determination and strong will it will continue on the path of jihad till the last drop of blood.”
An earlier version of the statement appeared on the site in Farsi Friday.
The statement described the “painful event” of former leader Abdulmalik Rigi’s capture on Tuesday, but said all the tribes of Baluchistan had pledged allegiance to the new leader.
In an earlier statement acknowledging Rigi’s capture Wednesday, Jundallah said U.S., Afghan and Pakistani intelligence played a major role in trailing Rigi’s movements.
Iran, however, said there was no help from other nations in the capture and instead has accused the U.S. of supporting the insurgent group.
But Pakistan’s ambassador to Tehran, M. B. Abbasi, said Wednesday that Rigi could not have been apprehended without his country’s cooperation.
Jundallah has claimed responsibility for bombing attacks that have killed dozens in recent years, including five senior commanders of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard in October.
The group, which Iran claims is linked to al-Qaeda, gained notice six years ago after it launched a campaign of sporadic attacks and kidnappings. It claims minority Sunni tribes in southeastern Iran suffer discrimination at the hands of Iran’s Shiite leadership.
Rigi has said in the past that Jundallah did not seek to break away from Iran but that violence was necessary to draw attention to alleged discrimination.
Iran has accused the U.S. and Britain of supporting Jundallah in an effort to weaken the Iranian government, a charge they both deny.