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- Thursday, August 15, 2013 - From Print Edition


TEHRAN: Iran said it was “hostile” to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks brokered by the United States, hours before negotiations in Jerusalem were due to kick off on Wednesday.


“Iran is hostile to these negotiations and several Palestinian groups are hostile to them,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi told the ISNA news agency. “The current context is not suitable for negotiations,” said the spokesman, whose country is a backer of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas ruling Gaza that slammed the talks as a “national crime”.


“In fact, the Zionist regime is continuing to build new (settlement) housing, which is condemned by the Europeans and the United States, but the Zionist regime does as it wants,” said Araqchi.


The Jerusalem talks were to open late on Wednesday, just hours after Israel’s housing minister insisted his country would build “thousands” of new Jewish settler homes in the occupied West Bank.


“These talks are unbalanced and the rights of the Palestinian people, like the right of return, self-determination and the question of Quds (Jerusalem) are ignored, and for this reason they will give no results,” Araqchi said. Iran does not recognise Israel, and the Islamic republic’s new president, moderate Hassan Rowhani, has branded Israel a “wound” that “has for many years been sitting on the body of the Islamic world”.


Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged “increased pressure” on Iran, saying it was the “only thing” that would deter it from pursuing nuclear weapons capability.


Israel and other Western countries suspect the Islamic republic is using its nuclear programme — which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes — to develop an atomic bomb.