Iran vice-president summoned by parliament over pro-Israeli comments

Iran Materials 12 August 2008 20:36 (UTC +04:00)

Iranian Vice-President Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei has been summoned by parliament for having made pro-Israeli comments, ISNA news agency reported Tuesday.

The cultural commission of the parliament has called for a special session on Wednesday with Rahim-Mashaei for him to reply to "questions, ambiguities and criticism" by the deputies over the comments.

The vice-president, who is in charge of cultural heritage and tourism, said that Iran would be friends with both the Israeli and American people despite political problems with the two countries. He emphasized this position again on Monday, the dpa reported.

Reacting to Rahim-Mashaei's comments, parliament speaker Ali Larijani on Monday reiterated that Iran was no friend of the Israelis.

The reaction by the parliament and Larijani was surprising as the vice-president's remarks are in line with the stance of Iran's Islamic system which distinguishes peoples from governments, including political arch-foes Israel and the United States.

Even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had has earned himself international notoriety for his frequent verbal assaults on Israel, has several times stressed that he was addressing the Israeli administration and not the Jews, and hence rejected charges of being anti-Semitic.

Iran does acknowledge Israel as a sovereign state and has called for a referendum in what it calls the "occupied territories" to clarify the future political situation. Tehran says that Jews should live besides Moslems but in a Palestinian and not Israeli land.

Ahmadinejad has voiced hopes for the eradication of Israel from the Middle East, demanding its relocation to Europe or Alaska, and he also expressed doubts about the historic dimension of the Holocaust during World War II.