ahmadinejad erdogan 248 88 AP.
(photo credit: )
"The Zionist regime is a threat to all nations ... it cannot tolerate the existence of any strong country in the region," said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday, according to Teheran news agency Press TV.
Ahmadinejad spoke after welcoming Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who arrived in Teheran Tuesday for a two-day visit.
Iran's president praised Erdogan's stance over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying the Turkish leader's "clear stance toward the Zionist regime has had a positive impact on the world of Islam."
At an international conference in January, Erdogan strongly condemned Israel's offensive in Gaza and the steep Palestinian casualties inflicted there. The Iranian leader is known for his anti-Israeli remarks since 2005, when he said the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map."
Ahmadinejad lashed out at Israel, which is believed to have nuclear weapons, saying that when an "illegal regime has atomic weapons, it's impossible to block others" from having peaceful nuclear energy.
The Iranian leader was echoing statements voiced by Erdogan in the Guardian on Monday, accusing the five permanent Security Council members of hypocrisy. While these countries put pressure on Iran, which does not have "a weapon," he said, they themselves keep nuclear arsenals for military purposes.
During the Guardian interview, Erdogan also referred to reports saying Israel or other Western countries were planning to carry out what he termed a "crazy" attack against Iran in lieu of sanctions or negotiations.
"On the one hand you say you want global peace, on the other hand you are going to have such a destructive approach to a state which has 10,000 years of history. It is not correct," he was quoted as saying, adding that Ankara was firm in its belief that Teheran's nuclear program was peaceful.
Ahmadinejad reportedly suggested that if Turkey and Iran "reinforce their unity, they will overcome serious threats and make use of opportunities in favor of their own nations."
In related news, Ahmadinejad announced on Tuesday that his country would persist with its nuclear program, despite international concerns.
His remarks were the first since a UN-backed draft was put forth aimed at easing tensions with the West.
Later Tuesday, Iran indicated acceptance of the general framework of a UN-draft nuclear deal, but said it would seek "important changes" that could test the willingness of world powers to make concessions in exchange for a pact to rein in Teheran's ability to make atomic warheads.
Iranian State TV reported that Teheran opposes shipping its full stockpile of low-enriched uranium at once, and seeks changes to the UN plan.
The demand for a step-by-step approach Tuesday came as the world awaited Iran's decision on the plan, which seeks to ease Western worries about the country's ability to one day create nuclear weapons.
According to an unnamed Iranian official cited on Arabic-language television channel al-Alam, Teheran will agree to the "general framework" of the UN-drafted plan, but will seek "important changes" in the deal.
The UN plan envisages Teheran sending out most of its low-enriched stock to Russia for further processing, which would reduce its stockpile significantly and limit its potential capability to build nuclear arms.
According to the plan, the higher-enriched uranium would be used to power a small medical research reactor in the Islamic republic's capital.
Later on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has been playing a role in negotiations with Iran, said that "the deal was a good deal and I don't think it requires fundamental changes."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also spoke on the subject, expressing concern over Iran's strategy of delaying time and again its responses to world powers. "It cannot take forever. We wait for answers," he said during a visit to Luxembourg on Tuesday.
Iran's stance on the plan has so far been unclear, and an official response from Teheran is expected on Friday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki hinted Monday Teheran could agree to ship some of its low-enriched uranium to Russia for processing as reactor fuel - but also left the possibility open that Iran may snub the proposal altogether.
The remarks came as UN inspectors were visiting a formerly secret mountainside uranium enrichment site near Qom, south of Teheran.