(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
Days after calling Iran a "stabilizing" force in the Middle East, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy issued a statement harshly criticizing Iran's call on Thursday to destroy Israel.
"I totally condemn these words," Douste-Blazy said on France-Inter radio, in response to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement Thursday that the solution to the current Middle East crisis was to destroy Israel.
"Peace and security in Lebanon and its borders has to be preserved by the Lebanese government and people. Deployment of foreign forces is not acceptable in any shape unless it is just, based on UN rules and preserves the unity and territorial integrity of Lebanon," he said.
The words are "absolutely unacceptable on anyone's part, especially from a head of state," Douste-Blazy said.
Douste-Blazy said that the crisis had presented an opportunity for Iran to "show that it can play a positive and stabilizing role in the region," but added that Ahmadinejad's statement "confirmed that this is not the case."
In a speech during an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Malaysia, Ahmadinejad also called for an immediate cease-fire to end the fighting between Israel and the Iranian-backed group Hizbullah.
"Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented," Ahmadinejad said, according to state-run television in a report posted on its Web site Thursday.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev accused Ahmadinejad of trying to rally the region to support Iranian-backed Hizbullah.
"Our operation in Lebanon is designed to neutralize one of the long arms of Iran, Hezbollah," Regev said. "Hizbullah is their proxy, being used as an instrument of Teheran to advance their extremist agenda and the blow to Hezbollah is a blow to Iranian interests and a blow to all extremist Jihadist forces in the region.
Ahmadinejad called on all Muslim states to "cut their open and secret political and economic ties with the fake and outlawed Zionist regime" in response to its attacks against Lebanon.
He also urged Muslim states to "isolate" the United States and Britain for supporting Israel's military attacks against Lebanon.
Ahmadinejad also rejected deploying international forces on the Israeli-Lebanese border.