* Crowds of Iranians join annual march against Israel
* Ahmedinejad calls Israel a "cancerous tumour"
* Iran risks losing Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad
DUBAI, Aug 17 Many thousands of Iranians shouted
"Death to America, death to Israel" during state-organised
protests on Friday and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told them
there was no place for the Jewish state in a future Middle East.
Iran, penalised by tough Western sanctions, faces the threat
of an Israeli or U.S. military strike on its disputed nuclear
facilities. With popular uprisings reshaping the region, the
Islamic Republic is also trying to prevent the overthrow of its
closest Arab ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"You want a new Middle East? We do too, but in the new
Middle East ... there will be no trace of the American presence
and the Zionists," Ahmadinejad told worshippers at Tehran
University in an event broadcast live on state television.
The Iranian leader, whose own authority is under challenge
from hardliners as well as reformers, was restating Tehran's
familiar goals as the Middle East undergoes a very different
upheaval from the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the
U.S.-backed Shah and brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to
"Saving the existence of the Zionist regime (Israel) is a
joint commitment by most arrogant Western governments,"
Ahmadinejad said in a speech to mark the annual Al-Quds
(Jerusalem) Day decreed by Khomeini and held on the last Friday
of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
He called for Muslim unity to foil Western support for
Israel, which he described as a "cancerous tumour" for its
occupation of Palestinian land.
But there was little unity on display at an Islamic summit
in Mecca earlier this week when the 57-member Organisation of
Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria despite Iran's objections.
Speaking at the emergency summit, Ahmadinejad said Western
powers could never be a role model for the Islamic world.
"Freedom and democracy will not come from the barrels of
NATO guns and the interference of Western nations," he said.
Shi'ite Iran has watched in dismay as rebels drawn mainly
from Syria's Sunni Muslim majority try to oust Assad, whose
country has been a vital part of Iran's "axis of resistance"
against Israel, Sunni-ruled Arab states and the West.
"I think the enemies have been successful to a certain
extent in creating regional conflicts," Ahmadinejad
acknowledged, without naming Syria.
Iran accuses the United States and its allies in the Middle
East of backing Assad's opponents to try to relieve pressure on
Israel by destroying the "axis of resistance" between Tehran,
Damascus and the Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah movement.
State television said millions of Iranians joined the
al-Quds Day marches across the country and showed large crowds
chanting slogans and carrying portraits of Khomeini and his
successor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Some bore a coffin decked with pictures of Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. Demonstrators
burned American and Israeli flags.
Israel, thought to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed
power, sees Iran's nuclear activities as a threat to its
existence and has repeatedly threatened military action if
diplomacy fails to resolve the issue. Iran denies seeking a bomb
and says its nuclear work has only peaceful purposes.