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President Shimon Peres yesterday blasted Iran for being "at the center of violence and fanaticism" and working to undermine Middle East peace efforts, during an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

But he told the UN that a comprehensive Palestinian peace accord could be achieved and talks with Syria were possible next year. Progress with Syria would depend on President Bashar Assad's response, he said.

"[Iran] built a danger to the entire world. Its quest for religious hegemony and regional dominance divides the Middle East and holds back chances for peace, while undermining human rights," Peres told the 192-member assembly.

Warning that Tehran "continues to develop enriched uranium and long range missiles," Peres said the UN "General Assembly and the Security Council bear responsibility to prevent agonies before they take place."

Peres said that Iranian support for Hezbollah has divided Lebanon. "Its support for Hamas split the Palestinians and postpones the establishment of the Palestinian state."

Peres slammed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech to the same UN forum on Tuesday, branding it "the darkest anti-Semitic libel."

Ahmadinejad, who was absent from Peres' speech, said Tuesday that "a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists" had seized control financial and political centers in Europe and the U.S. in "a deceitful, complex and furtive manner."

Peres said the Iranian leader's speech was reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic tract published in the early 1900s that described a Jewish and Masonic plot to take over the world. Ahmadinejad's words were "an attempt to bring to life one of the ugliest plots of history," Peres said.

He also lashed out at the Iranian leader's frequent comments doubting that the genocide of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis in World War II had taken place. "Their despicable denial of the Holocaust is a mockery of indisputable evidence, a cynical offense to survivors of the horror," Peres said.

"I believe we can achieve [peace with the Palestinians] over the next year." He said both sides agreed to establish a Palestinian state beside Israel and to continue the talks "despite possible changes in leadership."

Addressing the Syrian issue, Peres said that opening negotiations depend on President Assad's response to Israel's offer to meet face-to-face.

"Israeli prime ministers indicated to Syria that for peace, we are ready to explore a comprehensive compromise. In order to gain trust, and save time, we have suggested face-to-face meetings with President Assad: 'Follow the successful example set by President Sadat and King Hussein.' We await an answer," he said.