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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Wipe Israel From Face of Earth, says Iranian President


Wipe Israel from map, says Iran’s president
By Gareth Smyth in TehranPublished:
October 26 2005 21:26
Last updated: October 27 2005 00:00
Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran’s fundamentalist president, on Wednesday declared that Israel should be “wiped off the map” and warned Arab countries against developing economic ties with Israel in response to its withdrawal from Gaza.
His remarks, delivered at a conference in Tehran entitled “A World without Zionism”, led to diplomatic protests by the UK, France and Spain, while Shimon Peres, Israel’s deputy prime minister, said Iran should be expelled from the United Nations.
In Washington, spokesmen for the Bush administration said the statement underscored US concern over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.
Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s comments came as Islamic Jihad, a militant Palestinian group allied to Iran, killed at least five Israelis with a bombing in the Israeli town of Hedera. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, saying it was avenging Israel’s killing of a West Bank commander on Monday.
US analysts noted that the president’s remarks were not a departure from hardline Iranian rhetoric and did not represent new policy.
But they said the rhetoric was aggressive and badly timed, and would serve to confirm western suspicions of Iran’s more confrontational approach that were raised by the new president’s speeches at the United Nations last month.
However, European diplomats suggested the comments would not derail efforts by France, Germany and the UK to get Iran to return to the negotiating table and halt work at its Isfahan uranium conversion facility. One diplomat said the EU3 had made a point of keeping the nuclear issue separate from Iranian support for militant Palestinian groups during two years of talks.
“As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map,” Mr Ahmadi-Nejad said, citing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran’s Islamic revolution.
The president told an audience of students there was “no doubt the new wave [of attacks] in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world”.
“Anybody who recognises Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury,” he said, in remarks aimed at Arab states.
Mr Ahmadi-Nejad, who took office in August, was departing from the moderate line of his reformist predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, who argued Iran should be no more radical about Israel than the Palestinians themselves. Reformist figures in Iran have recently warned that Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s stern rhetoric endangers Iran’s national interest and could encourage the referral of Tehran’s nuclear programme to the UN Security Council. Iran denies its development of the nuclear fuel cycle is for military use.


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