TEHRAN (AFP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad chided Saudi Arabia for taking part in a US-hosted Middle East peace meeting, after Arab participation in the event left Tehran isolated, media reported on Monday.
Ahmadinejad bluntly told Saudi King Abdullah in a telephone conversation that he wished the kingdom was not attending the conference alongside Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday in Annapolis near Washington.
"I wish the name of Saudi Arabia was not among those attending the Annapolis conference," Ahmadinejad told the king late Sunday, according to state news agency IRNA.
"Arab countries should be watchful in the face of the plots and deception of the Zionist enemy," he added.
The Islamic republic -- which has made non-recognition of Israel one of its main ideological themes -- has been left isolated by the attendance at the meeting of its chief regional ally Syria as well as Saudi Arabia.
More than a dozen Arab countries are sending representatives. Iraq's presence is not confirmed and the Islamist Hamas movement, which controls Gaza in defiance of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, will also be absent from the talks.
"The US government, which is an accomplice to Zionist crimes, cannot play the role of saviour by hosting the Annapolis conference," Ahmadinejad told the Saudi king.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab states agreed on Friday to attend the conference, in what will be the first time the kingdom will sit at the same table with the Jewish state to discuss Middle East peacemaking.
In another landmark move, Israeli foe Syria took a last-minute decision to send Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to the talks.
Damascus had made its presence conditional on the inclusion of the issue of the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since 1967, on the conference agenda.
About a hundred Islamist students gathered outside the Jordanian embassy in Tehran to protest against the Arab governments' decision, shouting "Syria, shame on you" as well as the ususal "Death to America" and "Death to Israel".
The protestors then pelted the embassy with stones, breaking a window.
Ahmadinejad spoke by telephone with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday, saying "only the true representatives of the Palestinian people can take decisions" on their future.
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also reaffirmed his condemnation of the conference, which he predicted was "doomed to failure".
"They hope the conference will help the usurping Zionist regime and save the honour of the Black House," he said in a speech to militia volunteers, in a sarcastic reference to the White House.
Tehran's anger over the involvement of Riyadh in the conference is the latest hiccup in relations between Shiite majority Iran and Sunni majority Saudi Arabia that have not always been smooth.
Ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage next month, Iran has also been urging Saudi Arabia to crack down on religious extremism following reports of anti-Shiite sermons and pamphlets in the kingdom.
In an apparent bid to stage a counter-meeting, Ahmadinejad has invited the leaders of Palestinian factions to meet in Tehran soon, the Hamas' Iranian representative Abu Ossama Abdul Mata told the Fars news agency.
King Abdullah was quoted as saying by IRNA that Riyadh would "never" recognise Israel. The remarks have yet to be confirmed by Saudi official media.
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