Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Now Ahmadinejad seems to accept Israel's right to exist

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Following on from yesterday's news that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently accepted that there might be "a few" gay people in his country, I learn from another news release from Peter Tatchell (which he actually wrote for Comment is Free) that Ahmadinejad, in the same interview where he changed his tune on homosexuality, also suggested that he would be willing to accept the existence of Israel.

He was asked the question "If the Palestinian leaders agree to a two-state solution, could Iran live with an Israeli state?", and here's what he said:
"If they [the Palestinians] want to keep the Zionists, they can stay ... Whatever the people decide, we will respect it. I mean, it's very much in correspondence with our proposal to allow Palestinian people to decide through free referendums."
That's quite a turnaround on previously saying that Ayatollah Khomeini was wise to say that Israel should "be wiped off the map". And the surprising thing is that the media failed to pick up on these latest comments. The original article from one of the interviewers didn't even highlight this as one of the main points. Did Ahmadinejad's comments merely slip through the net or is there, as Tatchell wonders, a deeper anti-Iran, pro-Israel bias in the Western media?

Either way, they were significant words from a man more famous for sweeping, bellicose rhetoric. As Tatchell points out, we should now be looking for signs that Ahmadinejad meant what he said:
"He ought be pressed by world leaders, and Israel, to repeat them and to clarify them. His statement might, and I emphasise might, be evidence that Iran is open to some negotiation on the future of the Israeli state."
Accepting (well, sort of) the existence of gays and Israel in one interview. Could the Iranian president be softening? We'll certainly be keeping an eye on him.