Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is calling a visit to Israel by U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney as "kissing the foot" of the Jewish state to boost his bid for the White House.
Ahmadinejad did not specifically name Romney, but his comments were an unmistakable jab at the Republican contender's stop this week in Israel. Romney strongly backed Israel's drive to stop Iran from possibly seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the claims.
Ahmadinejad questioned why Romney would make "concessions to get some pennies for [his] campaign?" The Iranian president made the comments during a speech Tuesday broadcast on state TV.
Also on Tuesday, China critisized Romney s statement that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, saying the remark could worsen an already tense Middle East situation, or even re-ignite a war between Palestinians and Israelis.
A commentary by the official Xinhua News Agency said Romney's "hawkish remarks" ignored the sensitive nature of Jerusalem. It said the comments disregarded the Palestinians' claim to the war-won eastern sector of the city, which was annexed by Israel in 1967 in a move that is not internationally recognized.
Romney also suggested during a trip to Israel that he was open to move the U.S.¬ Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something the Israelis have long sought but the U.S. ¬has refused to do because it would imply recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the entire city.
"Romney's remarks totally neglect historical facts and are actually irresponsible if he just meant to appeal to voters at home," Xinhua said. Romney, who was on an overseas trip that also included stops in Britain and Poland to bolster his image ahead of the election, has previously upset some in China by threatening tougher action on Beijing in trade disputes if he is elected president.
Xinhua said Romney's "radical words" on Israel were aimed at winning over U.S.¬ Jewish voters in the presidential election in November, adding that the "status of Jerusalem will not be resolved until a comprehensive solution is found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Palestinians said Romney didn't understand the complexities of one of the world's most intractable conflicts. Palestinian critics accused Romney of snubbing the Palestinians' president, dismissing their claims to Jerusalem and suggesting their culture is inferior to Israel's.
Earlier on Tuesday, in a speech broadcast on state television, Ahmadinejad told a group of oil officials that only "politically retarded" governments would use badly needed oil as a tool of "political warfare" in opposition to Iran's nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad's remarks came after the U.S. Congress pressed ahead late Monday with a new package of sanctions on Iran, expanding financial penalties and targeting Tehran's energy and shipping sectors in the hope that economic pressure will undercut the country's suspected nuclear weapons program. Iran denies it seeks atomic weapons
Iran relies on oil for some 80 percent of its foreign revenue.
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