Hezbollah joins Tehran and Hamas in denouncing Annapolis talks
Lebanese militant group calls conference 'media show'; Iran: Summit will erode Palestinian rights.
Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group joined Iran on Sunday in denouncing this week's U.S.-hosted Middle East peace conference, calling it a "media show" in support of Israel.
The United States aims to relaunch peace talks on Palestinian statehood at Tuesday's conference in Annapolis, Maryland, that will bring together Arab and Israeli leaders.
Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah, backed by Israel's sworn enemies Syria and Iran, is one of several Arab militant groups which do not recognize Israel. Its guerrillas fought a 34-day war against Israel last year.
"He who looks at the preparations for the Annapolis conference finds that it has no gains for the Palestinians. It is a media-political show in favor of Israel," Hezbollah deputy chief Shiekh Naim Kassem told a rally in Beirut.
He said the conference aimed at propping up some Palestinian leaders, a clear reference to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
The Arab League agreed on Friday to attend the meeting in the hope of promoting the creation of a Palestinian state and pushing for the return of occupied Syrian land.
Iran: Mideast conference will erode Palestinian rights
Iran said on Sunday the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland would result in an erosion of Palestinian rights because Washington had shown in the past that it was not an objective mediator.
Iran does not recognize Israel and backs Palestinian and Lebanese Islamic militant groups opposed to peace. Tehran has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, and called in October called for a boycott of the meeting.
"The organizers of this conference are Americans and past experience tells us that they cannot be objective and credible mediators and they are providing all out support for the Zionist regime," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said, making a reference to Israel.
"The end result of all of these conferences leads to a further erosion of Palestinian rights," he told a news conference.
"This conference, and whatever comes out of it, will not be fruitful if it does not safeguard the rights of Palestinians," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, IRNA news agency reported.
"Attending this conference shows a lack of political intelligence... The names of those who give concessions to the Zionist occupiers by attending will not be remembered for goodness," the president told a gathering of Iran's Basij religious militia.
Iranian leaders have called for a referendum among all Palestinians - wherever they now live and whatever their religion or background - to decide on the fate of what is now Israel and the Palestinian areas.
Ahead of summit, Hamas threatens to make deadlier Qassam rockets Hamas can make the rockets it fires at Israel much deadlier by packing them with more explosives, a senior official in the Islamic militant group said in a statement Saturday.
The official, Ahmed Yousef, made the threat just two days before the start of the Annapolis peace conference.
Israeli officials have warned that Hamas may try to disrupt the conference with more intense rocket fire. Gaza militants, including Hamas members, have fired hundreds of crude, homemade rockets at Israeli border communities in recent years, killing 12 people and disrupting life along the border.
In a statement sent to reporters, Yousef said that the rockets currently being fired have limited effect because they don't carry lethal enough warheads.
"They can be developed in a short period to create sufficient terror and fear and make the Israelis live in pain no less than what our people live through because of the repeated incursions into our villages and cities in the West Bank and Gaza," wrote Yousef, an adviser to deposed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh.
Yousef also said Israel has rejected repeated truce offers by Hamas, which seized control of Gaza by force in the summer, prompting Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to establish a moderate government in the West Bank.
So far, no difference has been detected in Hamas' rockets. Israel said Yousef's comments reflect Hamas' intentions to try torpedo peace efforts. "We take these threats very seriously, said Mark Regev," Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Hamas calls Arab League decision to attend summit 'a shock' Hamas on Saturday condemned a decision by Arab powers to endorse next week's peace conference, saying the talks would favor Israeli policies rather than Palestinian demands.
Hamas, which refuses to recognise Israel, is excluded from the Nov. 27 conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
Arab League ministers agreed Friday to attend the conference in the hope of promoting the creation of a Palestinian state and pushing for Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a regional peace process.
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri called the announcement "a great shock for Palestinians because it opened the door for direct normalization with the occupation (Israel) amid (its) continued escalation and aggression."
"The Palestinian people had awaited an Arab consensus for breaking the siege," Abu Zuhri said in a statement, referring to a Western aid embargo and Israeli military crackdowns on Gaza since Hamas swept to power in 2006 elections.
"This meeting will only achieve more failure and more harm to the Palestinian cause and to Arab and Palestinian rights."
Saudi Arabia, long a Hamas patron, has said it would come to Annapolis despite having no formal ties with Israel. Syria, which hosts Hamas' foreign headquarters, wants clarification on the conference's agenda before it decides whether to attend.
Senior Damascus-based Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk was quoted on a Hamas Web site Friday as predicting a fresh wave of Palestinian violence in the wake of the peace conference.
"Resistance in all its forms and means will escalate in the West Bank and Gaza against the Zionist enemy," Marzouk said in a written interview. "This is because Annapolis will expose the arbitrariness of the [political] settlement track and its destructive endeavors."