Don’t worry about Iran, Israel will take care of it, former Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin as telling him a number of years ago.

Aznar, speaking on Wednesday at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs about a meeting he had with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2000, said Putin’s comments came after he entreated the Russian president not to sell S300 surface- to-air missiles to Iran.

“Don’t worry – I, you – we can sell them everything, even if we are worried by an Iranian nuclear bomb,” Aznar quoted Putin as saying, getting close to him and whispering the words in his ear. “Because at the end of the day, Israel will take care of it.”

Aznar, one of the few Western leaders to have met Khamenei, said the Iranian leader made it clear when they met in October 2000 that “Israel was a historic cancer and an anomaly, a country to be put in flames and condemned to disappear.”

Aznar added that he found in Khamenei a man not only inspired by faith, but also “more nationalistic than I imagined.” He said the ayatollah wanted Iran to flourish in all fields, especially science and technology, to attain self-sufficiency and independence.

It was this desire for self-sufficiency, he said, which has led the Iranians to strive to develop their own nuclear weapons, rather than buy a bomb from North Korea or Pakistan.

The former Spanish prime minister noted that Khamenei said clearly, though softly and through an interpreter, that “an open confrontation with Israel and the US was inevitable,” and “he was working for Iran to prevail in such a confrontation.”

Khamenei viewed this as his duty as “the ultimate vanguard of the Islamic global revolution,” Aznar continued. Khamenei was explicit about “it [being] necessary to eliminate the threat Israel posed,” Aznar remembered, adding that this obviously meant the supreme leader believed Israel must be “removed.” Asked whether Khamenei used the word “eliminate,” he said: “Finish, eliminate, end their history.”

Aznar said Khamenei was worried that Israel and the US would pervert his society, and that he viewed the threat of the West “not only in military terms, but in cultural terms – in values more than weapons.”

Regarding next week’s scheduled talks in Baghdad between Iran and the world’s powers – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – Aznar said it was incumbent upon the international community to precisely define the limits of the negotiations. Otherwise, he warned, the Iranians would simply play for time.

Aznar led Spain’s government from 1996 to 2004. Since then he has been an outspoken supporter of the Jewish state, and founded the Friends of Israel Initiative, a project to defend Israel’s right to exist that includes in its ranks a number of other notable international figures.

Before delivering his lecture on Wednesday, Aznar met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. No details from that meeting were made available.


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