Iran has angrily dissociated itself from Arab and Islamic attempts to publicise an offer to make peace with and recognise Israel. Officials in Tehran are furious that the Iranian flag appeared on a full-page advert, published in the Guardian and other papers in the Arab world and beyond, promoting the Saudi-brokered initiative. The plan calls for members of the Arab League to recognise Israel, if Israel withdraws to its 1967 borders and agrees a just solution of the Palestinian issue and a comprehensive peace. It has also been endorsed by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, of which Iran, along with other Muslim countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, is a member.
But the Iranian embassy in London protests in a letter to the Guardian today that the Islamic Republic objects "to any move taken by some Arab countries to push the recognition of the occupying Zionist regime in any manner, including in Islamic conferences". It describes Israel as "the illegitimate and fabricated regime" and condemns the "abuse" of its flag.
Remarks by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about Israel and the Holocaust, and suspicions that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons - which it strongly denies - have attracted international controversy. Promotion of the peace plan has also hit a snag, with some Arab newspapers refusing to publish the advert because it includes an image of Israel's Star of David flag - underlining just how difficult it will be to promote peace with Israel while the Palestinian issue is not resolved.
The Palestinian Authority launched the campaign last week by taking out unprecedented full-page ads in Hebrew-language newspapers setting out the terms of the initiative. The pan-Arab Al Hayat newspaper, owned by Saudi Arabia, then published the full text with the Palestinian and Israeli flags surrounded by those of 57 Arab and Muslim countries, the combined membership of the Arab League and the OIC. Israel has given a cautious welcome to the Arab plan, but insists it will not accept it on a take-it-or-leave-it basis and wants to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority over borders and settlements.
US president-elect Barack Obama has said privately the Israelis would be "crazy" not to accept the initiative. Arab states and others such as the UK and EU hope it will be the centrepiece of peace efforts once the new US administration is in place.