IRAN TO STAGE LARGEST ANTI ISRAELI, ANTI US CONFERENCE

TEHRAN, 6 Feb. (IPS) Iran plans to host the largest meeting of hard line Islamic groups regarded by the United States as terrorists, according to informed sources in Tehran.

Iranian officials said the ten-days conference starting next week would discuss strategy against the United States and its allies, particularly Israel and the best ways and means to increase military, financial and propaganda support for Palestinian groups fighting Tel Aviv.

According to same sources, organisations such as the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad of Palestine, the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, and al-Qa’eda allies like the Ansar al Eslam would attend the meeting, to be chaired by Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashami, also known as "the father" of the Lebanese Shi’ite organisation.

Mr. Mohtashami, a former ambassador to Damascus and Interior minister now a reformist Member of the Majles, or the Iranian parliament, was in Lebanon last month where he coordinated with Hezbollah and representatives from the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad of Palestine the Tehran conference, expected to be inaugurated by a message from Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic, in the presence of some high-ranking officials, including President Mohammad Khatami and Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Chairman of the Expediency Council.

The conference would be held amidst an unprecedented political crisis following the disqualification of most of incumbent reformist lawmakers and, is the largest of Arab and Palestinian radical groups opposed to peace with Israel.

Under pressures and "encouragements" from the Islamic Republic, Hezbollah, created by the Islamic Republic after the victory of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, agreed last week to a dramatic exchange of prisoners with the Jewish State.

As a result, Israel handed over to Hezbollah more than 400 Palestinian, Lebanese and Arab prisoners and the bodies of 50 Hezbollah fighters against those of three Israeli soldiers and a businessman kidnapped two years ago by Hezbollah agents in the Persian Gulf city of Dubai.

Mr. Kamal Kharrazi, the Iranian Foreign Minister, in Beirut two days ago to discuss the second phase of the German-mediated exchange with both Lebanese and Hezbollah officials also invited Mr. Nabih Berri, the Speaker of Lebanese parliament and leader of Amal, the Syrian backed Shi’ite organisation to attend the Conference, sources added.

Besides Middle Eastern Islamist organisations, most of them supported by the Islamic Republic and officials from Syria, secular and leftist insurgent groups from South America, Spain and Ireland would also be present, the sources said, adding that representatives of several participating groups are already in the Iranian capital. ENDS ISLAMIST CONFERENCE 6204