Iran’s top leader: US not good Mideast mediator

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s top leader lashed out at the Unites States on Friday, saying that America is not a good mediator in Mideast peace talks because it allegedly always sides with Israel.

The comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came ahead of the second round of U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks next week. The talks resumed after a five-year freeze.

Khamenei argued that the results of any U.S.-hosted talks will eventually damage the Palestinian side and force the Palestinians to “abandon their rights and encourage the occupier.”

“The U.S. is not a real mediator, it stands by the Zionists,” said Khamenei. “Definitely …. it is against the interests of the Palestinians.”

Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, spoke during a prayer ceremony marking the start in Iran of the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The Palestinians seek to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967. Israel has since built dozens of settlements there that are home to about 560,000 Israelis.

The Mideast talks are expected to go ahead even as Israel is pressing forward with plans to build more than 1,000 new apartments in West Bank settlements.

The Israelis “destroy houses and construct buildings while claiming they want negotiations,” said Khamenei.

Iran does not recognize Israel and has considered the Jewish state its archenemy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed monarchy and brought clerics to power.

Israel has not ruled out a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, which the West suspects are geared toward making a nuclear weapon. Tehran denies the charge and insists its nuclear program is meant for peaceful purposes only.

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