Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Iranians invite Israeli minister to come sightseeing

Women tour the ruins of Persepolis
The ancient city of Persepolis is one of Iran's leading tourist attractions

The Israeli tourism minister has met an Iranian official at a tourism fair and discussed the possibility of Israelis one day visiting Iran.

The Israeli government sees Iran as its greatest security threat, while Iranian leaders often make hostile statements about Israel.

But at the annual Fitur tourist industry show in Spain, the meeting between the countries was cordial.

But attempts by the Israelis to talk to a Syrian delegation were rebuffed.

At the impromptu meeting the representative of the Islamic Republic's Tourism Ministry invited Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov to visit the cities of Shiraz and Isfahan.

"We have wonderful nature reserves and cultural sites, you are welcome to come and visit," the official who is in charge of Iran's stall at the fair was quoted by Israeli media as telling the minister.

"I believe the day will come when an Israeli minister, as well as Israeli citizens, will be able to visit and enjoy Iran," Mr Misezhnikov said.

The Israeli minister also visited the Jordanian, Palestinian, Moroccan and Egyptian stalls.

'End of Israel'

The relationship between Iran and Israel, which Iranian officials refer to as "the Zionist entity" or "the occupying power", often appears on a knife edge.

In October 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a statement in which he envisaged the replacement of Israel with a Palestinian state.

He was quoting Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's Islamic Revolution, and his words were widely translated as a call for Israel to be "wiped off the map", though this translation is disputed.

In 2007 he was quoted by the official news agency as saying a countdown to the destruction of Israel had begun.

"God willing, in the near future we will witness the destruction of the corrupt occupier regime," he said.

He has also made public statements denying the Holocaust.

In 2006 an Israeli minister said military strikes against Iran "could not be ruled out" if Iran continued to pursue their nuclear ambitions.

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