DAMASCUS, Syria – The State Department, reacting negatively to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's meeting in Damascus with leaders of militant Palestinian groups, said Friday that neither Iran nor Syria can proclaim itself a champion of the Palestinian people.
The claims are "clearly bankrupt and hollow," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, citing Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as calling for foreign governments to stop their support for Palestinian rejectionist groups.
In fact, McCormack said, Abbas has called for Damascus to close down the headquarters of these groups, including Islamic Jihad.
"This is one more example of the Iranian regime being out of step with the trends in the region," McCormack said.
The statement was issued in response to the Iranian president meeting Friday with the leaders of the Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Syria, expressing his support a day after 20 people were wounded in Tel Aviv in a suicide attack claimed by Jihad.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has said Syria planned the attack and Iran funded it. But Iranian and Syrian officials have denied any involvement by their countries.
McCormack said, "The Palestinian people have said what they want is a more peaceful, prosperous, stable future and one in which the live in their own state side by side in peace with Israel."