Newspapers across the Middle East reported Wednesday's speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without comment, many of them on their front pages.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry and cabinet officials said Cairo would have nothing to say on the address.

Egyptian government officials played down the importance of the speech, saying it was intended for a conservative Iranian audience which remained faithful to the thinking behind the 1979 revolution.

With so many conflicts in the Middle East, "the region is in a mess. We really don't need one more", said one official on condition of anonymity, hoping the issue would go away.

Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher also declined comment, apparently to avoid further aggravating relations with Iran, which the kingdom has accused of interfering in Iraq to strengthen Shia influence in the Middle East.

Differences 

Analysts said Amadinejad's uncompromising line highlighted Iran's differences with other Middle East governments and will make it easier for the US and its allies to take a tough line against Iran for its defiant nuclear policy.

However, Mohamed Wahby, a former diplomat and member of the Egyptian Council on Foreign Affairs, said it was a mistake to remain quiet about the speech, which he said undermined Middle East peace prospects.

"Recognisng Israel as an integral part of the Middle East is no longer in doubt," he said, saying Iran was only encouraging hardliners on both sides.

"Recognising Israel as an integral part of the Middle East is no longer in doubt"

Mohamed Wahby,
Ex-Egyptian diplomat


Mustafa Hamarneh, head of the Strategic Studies Centre at the University of Jordan, agreed that Amadinejad was out of step, especially with the Palestinians.

"He's an ideologue who shot from the cuff; it was not a studied statement," Hamarneh said.

Iran's threatening stance also was counterproductive to its own interests, said Wahby, reinforcing the notion that its nuclear programme is aimed at developing weapons despite claims that it is meant exclusively for peaceful power generation.

"Such statement by Tehran will encourage Israel to cling to its nuclear arsenal," Wahby said.

Mustafa Alani, an analyst from the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai, said Arab states will see Ahmadinejad's speech as showing up the Iranian government to be "illogical, irrational".

"The Arab countries have benefited," Alani said. "They will never issue a statement, but they are happy that he proved the Iranians, on the regional level, are not rational."