TEHRAN Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's top authority, said on Monday a U.S.-organised Middle East conference was "doomed to failure" and said it was being held to help Israel not the Palestinians.
The United States wants to restart peace talks on Palestinian statehood by bringing together Arabs and Israelis at a meeting on Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland. Iran, which does not recognise Israel, has opposed the plan from the outset.
"All politicians in the world are aware that this conference is doomed to failure," Khamenei told a parade of Basij religious militia in an address televised live on state television.
"They hope that in this way (by holding this conference) they can give assistance to the Zionists," he said, referring to Israel.
Khamenei, who has the last say in all matters of state in Iran, had urged Muslim countries to boycott the meeting.
"Arab countries must be aware of the plots and tricks by the Zionist enemy," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a telephone conversation with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah late on Sunday, Iranian state media reported.
"I wish the name of Saudi Arabia was not listed among the attending states at the Annapolis conference," he was quoted as telling the king, whose country will be represented at the talks.
Opposition to Israel is a cornerstone belief for the Islamic Republic. Iran backs Palestinian and Lebanese Islamic militant groups opposed to peace with the Jewish state.
Iranian leaders have called for a referendum among all Palestinians -- wherever they now live and whatever their religion or background -- to decide on the fate of what is now Israel and the Palestinian areas.