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Israel's President Offers Olive Branch to Arab Leaders at UN


Israel's President has invited Arab leaders to come to Jerusalem to discuss the peace process. Shimon Peres said he would gladly accept an Arab invitation to go to a place where meaningful dialogue could occur. He made the offer during his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more on the second day of the annual meeting.

President Peres told the General Assembly that Israel is ready to negotiate full peace with the Palestinians to achieve two states living side-by-side in peace and security.

"We tried to conclude those negotiations this year. It will take apparently a longer period of time. I believe it can be accomplished within the next year," he said.

He said his country is ready to explore a comprehensive compromise that could lead to peace with Syria as well, saying that Israel has suggested face-to-face meetings with President Bashar al-Assad, but has not yet received an answer.

Mr. Peres also reached out to Lebanon, suggesting immediate peace with that neighbor is possible.

And he urged Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to follow up on the peace initiative he introduced during the Arab League Summit in Beirut in 2002, that offered normalization of relations between Arab States and Israel in exchange for a full withdrawal from Arab territories and a Palestinian state.

But on the subject of Iran, President Peres said Tehran is at the "center of violence and fanaticism" and is a danger to the world because of its hateful attitude toward Israel, its state support of terrorism and its efforts to develop nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

"The Iranian people are not our enemies. Their fanatic leadership is their problem and the world's worry," Mr. Peres said. "Their leader is a danger to his own people, to the region, to the world. He is a disgrace to the ancient Iranian people and tradition. He is a disgrace to the values of Islam and all religions. He is a disgrace to this house - the United Nations - its basic principles and values. His appearance here is already a shame."

Mr. Peres was referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who addressed the Assembly on Tuesday. During his speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad lashed out at the Jewish state, blaming what he called a "Zionist network" for controlling American and European foreign policy and dominating world financial markets in a deceitful and secretive manner.

Also addressing the General Assembly on Wednesday was Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai. He said terrorism still plagues his country and has spread to neighbors Pakistan and India.

"To the extent that terrorism in our region continues to be a global threat, evolving in nature and tactics, the struggle against it must continue unabated," Mr. Karzai said.

While China's Premier Wen Jiabao thanked the international community for its support during his country's devastating earthquake in May and as it hosted the Summer Olympic Games. He said China is now on a path of sustained development that would be achieved through reform and openness.

The General Assembly also heard Wednesday from a number of presidents, including those from Mexico, Ukraine, Chile, Sri Lanka and Senegal. The annual meeting continues on Thursday, when the presidents of Iraq, Zimbabwe and Pakistan are among those scheduled to speak.

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