Extending friendship to Israel’s people was “wrong,” but the controversy over the matter should end, Iran’s supreme leader said.
In an address to worshippers on Friday, Ayatollah Ali Khameini referred to a controversy sparked by Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, the Iranian vice president, who recently said Iran extends friendship to all people, including those in Israel. The remarks did not imply recognition of Israel but nonetheless led to calls for Mashaie’s censure in the Iranian parliament.
An individual “makes comments about those people who live in Israel; of course, this is a wrong remark,” Khameini said, according to a Reuters report. “The issue should be finished.”
In his remarks Friday, Khameini also appeared to back the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is up for reelection in June. Khameini is the ultimate center of power in Iran’s theocracy.
Internal critics say Ahmadinejad’s policies, including accelerating Iran’s uranium enrichment, lambasting Israel and denying the Holocaust, have increased Iran’s isolation and worsened the economy.
In separate remarks, Ahmadinejad defended his vice president, saying he too did not reject friendship with Israelis – but emphasized that he saw Israel as illegitmate.
“We have no problem with people and nations,” he said at a news conference Thursday, according to the New York Times. “Of course, we do not recognize a government or a nation for the Zionist regime.”
He elaborated: “We are opposed to the idea that the people who live there should be thrown into the sea or be burnt.” In the same news conference, he once again called the Holocaust a “fake.”