Israel's Peres tells of peace hopes
President says his nation does not want to be "masters" of the Palestinians.
Last Modified: 04 May 2009 20:17 GMT
Peres's speech in Washington was briefly
disrupted by protesters  [AFP]

Shimon Peres, Israel's president, has said he hopes his country can reach a peace deal with the Palestinians and that Israel does not want to be their "masters".

Peres made his comments to a crowd of about 6,000 people attending the annual policy conference of Aipac, the Israeli lobby, in Washington DC on Monday.

"The Palestinian people have the right to govern themselves. We don't want to be their masters ... Israel is prepared today to bring peace closer,"  he said.

Peres, who is set to meet Barack Obama, the US president, on Tuesday, also won applause when he called for a firm line to be taken against Iran over its nuclear programme.

"Unfortunately the Middle East finds itself in the shadow of a nuclear threat," he told delegates.

"Historically Iran sought to enrich mankind. Today, alas, Iran's rulers want to enrich uranium," he said, referring to claims it aims to produce a nuclear weapon.

Tehran denies the claims and insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful energy purposes.

'Moving ahead'

Aipac is supporting US legislation, unveiled last week, that would give Obama powers to place sanctions on firms that export gasoline to Iran.

Peres is the first senior Israeli official to visit Obama since he took office in January and since Benyamin Netanyahu, the right-wing Israeli prime minister, came to power in March.

He said Israel's position towards peace negotiations with the Palestinians remained the same as Washington's.

"Today, there is no difference between the American position and our position," Peres said. 

"We want to move ahead as swiftly together as it is needed and as it is possible."

Peres's speech was interrupted briefly by protesters criticising Israeli policies in the Gaza Strip.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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