Israel has officially protested against the planned visit of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Turkey next week.

Israel's ambassador to Turkey, Gabi Levy, presented the protest to officials in Ankara, and the Turkish ambassador to Israel was summoned to Jerusalem.

"Israel is disappointed that Turkey has invited for an official visit a leader who denies publicly the Holocaust, and thus grants him legitimacy," was the message given to the Turkish ambassador to relay to his government.

Iran's president has sought an official invitation to Turkey for four years, but every time such a visit was scheduled, it was postponed.

In recent months ties between Ankara and Tehran grew closer as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan attempted to play mediator between the Iranian regime and the United States.

Erdogan offered the Americans indirect negotiations with Iran in Turkey, along a model similar to the Turkish mediation between Israel and Syria.

Ahmadinejad's planned visit also drew severe criticism in Turkey because of the Iranian president's criticism of the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk. As a way of containing the furor, Ankara downgraded the visit from "official state visit" to "working visit."