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Iran Press Watch: Annapolis

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Iran’s press predicted a failure at Annapolis; they may well be proved right

As widely expected, the Iranian media were less than supportive of the Annapolis Peace Conference. It wasn't that they hadn't been invited - the average Iranian is used to being snubbed by the West and has developed a thick skin to this sort of thing. Instead, local pundits amused themselves by stating the obvious flaws in the process.

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The English language Kayan International, for example, quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying, "When the real representatives of the Palestinian resistance groups did not attend the meeting, and the rights, votes and will of this nation were not recognized, the conference would be fruitless."

True to form and never one to miss an opportunity, the president added that, "It is impossible that the Zionist regime will survive. Collapse is in the nature of this regime because it has been created on aggression, lying, oppression and crime." According to translators who viewed the original Farsi, the president said Zionist regime, as in government, and not Israel as a state.

It’s a bit like saying we'd like to see the end of the Bush administration and their policies, not necessarily the end of the United States of America as a country. Too subtle a difference for some to grasp, perhaps.

The three main protagonists, the U.S. , Israel, and Palestine agreed to seek a peace deal by the end of 2008 that would create a Palestinian state, Kayhan said, but the core issues like the status of al-Quds (Jerusalem), the borders of a future Palestinian state, and the fate of Palestinian refugees remained unresolved.

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Well, at least there was some progress. Or was there? Kayhan reported that within a few hours of the announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the 2008 deadline for a deal might not be reached. Translation: It won't be reached. The status of Jerusalem will see to that. The borders, the security walls, the settlers, the refugees.. well, they are just supporting intractable problems.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the forum’s only achievement was a couple of documents that haven’t actually been finalized by the signatories. “It was a show.”

He said the documents for signature couldn’t be finalized in time, suggesting the differences are very deep. It could also signify that insufficient time was given for the conference which again lends credibility to the accusation that it was nothing more than a glorified photo-opportunity.

Kayhan made a pointed statement in their editorial, "The truth is, the first formal direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians in seven years took place between leaders who both represent less than 30 percent of their respective populations."

They didn’t point out, through politeness perhaps, that the negotiations were being hosted by a leader with an even sorrier approval rating.

This theme was echoed in a front page leader in Iran Daily which said, "Bush hopes for a foreign policy success to polish his legacy, but the unpopular war in Iraq , the main factor in his low public approval ratings, could limit his room to manoeuvre."

The paper added, "Olmert's public standing is also low, partly due to last year's Lebanon war and rightist coalition partners have warned against concessions. Abbas lost control of Gaza to Hamas in June and only holds sway in the West Bank ."

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The popular daily, noting the obvious absence of Hamas from the proceedings, said inviting Abbas was a blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Palestinians, and an obvious attempt to prop up the faltering Abbas regime.

The paper said the conference achieved nothing more than to "widen the broad schism between the rival Fatah and Hamas."

Tehran Times, in a below-the-fold wire service piece, reported that Arab commentators had dismissed the process as a U.S. media event, an attempt by Bush to rescue his image after failures in Iraq and Afghanistan . The article said Abbas will return to Palestine without anything. Well, except for a few vague promises and a few extra snaps for his photo album.

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British journalist currently based in Tehran, Iran.

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