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The BBC's Jim Muir in Tehran
"Hezbollah is very much being held up as the example of how to deal with the Israelis"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Iran conference to support Intifada
Palestinian youths throw stones at Israeli forces
Conference will argue war will drive Israelis out
From Tehran correspondent Jim Muir

A major two-day conference has opened in the Iranian capital, Tehran, to show solidarity with the uprising or Intifada staged by the Palestinians against the Israelis.

The conference, sponsored by the Iranian parliament, has attracted delegations from around 35 Muslim and Arab countries and is being attended by representatives of the various Palestinian factions.

The gathering, the second of its kind to be staged here, is being given huge support by the Iranian authorities.

If there is one thing all Iranian factions can agree on it is the need to support the Palestinian uprising.

The event was inaugurated by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei with President Mohammed Khatami also delivering an opening address.

Wide consensus

One of the first speakers is Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah movement which was instrumental in driving the Israelis out of southern Lebanon last year.

Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei
Spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei urges an Intifada against Israel
As far as Iran is concerned that is the model for what the Palestinians should be following.

Ayatollah Khamenei has said recently that the Palestinian uprising resulted from Hezbollah's efforts to oust the Israelis from Lebanon.

The conference secretary, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, is now a reformist deputy in the Iranian parliament, but he was Iranian ambassador in Syria in the early 1980s and he played a crucial role in establishing Hezbollah.

Referendum call

Mr Mohtashemi said this week that the Middle East peace process was dead and that this conference was aimed at helping consolidate the unity that the Intifada had forged among different Palestinian groups.

The gathering is being attended by a big delegation from the Palestinian parliament as well as other representatives of the pro-Arafat mainstream but also by the radical Islamic groups such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

Its spokesmen on the ground in Palestine have called on the conference not just to produce hot air.

One practical proposal that is likely to be adopted is the idea of calling a referendum among the original inhabitants of Palestine on the country's future.

Clearly there will be no shortage of rhetoric but whether anything more tangible will come out of this conference remains to be seen.

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See also:

22 Apr 01 | Middle East
Mid-East deadlock continues
23 Apr 01 | Middle East
Palestinian boy shot dead
25 Jan 01 | Middle East
Syria and Iran back Palestinian uprising
14 Nov 00 | Middle East
Muslim leaders condemn Israel
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