TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said on Monday Iran is no friends of the Israelis, reacting to remarks to the contrary by an aide of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Fars news agency reported.
“We are not friends with the Israeli people and Iran has a logic which is what the (supreme) leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) has said,” Larijani was quoted as saying.
Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a deputy of Ahmadinejad, has insisted that Iran is “friends with the Israeli people.”
Rahim Mashaie first made statements to this effect in July. More recent remarks reaffirming his position in unequivocal terms were printed in several local newspapers on Monday.
“I had said this before that we do not have any hostility against the Israeli people and I still say the same thing proudly,” Rahim Mashaie was quoted as saying by Kargozaran newspaper.
“Not all the Israeli people are wearing (military) boots on the street,” added Rahim Mashaie, vice president in charge of tourism.
Rahim Mashaie’s initial comment raised controversy among Iran’s conservatives, as he is one of Ahmadinejad’s closest confidants.
The president has earned international notoriety for his frequent verbal assaults against Israel, which he has described as a “stinking corpse” and has predicted is doomed to disappear.
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly said that Iran is ready to talk to all countries except the “Zionist regime” — Tehran’s usual term for Israel.
The Islamic republic has repeatedly vowed never to recognise Israel, which was an ally of pro-US shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ousted by the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The animosity has spilled over to the Beijing Olympics, where Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei failed to appear for the men’s 100m breaststroke heats on Saturday, apparently because an Israeli was also racing.
Alirezaei’s lane one was empty when the field left the starting blocks. Israel’s Tom Beeri, starting in lane seven, finished fourth.
International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Giselle Davies said if it was shown that the Iranian had deliberately pulled out, “the IOC would take it seriously.”