Italy said Sunday that Iran was isolating itself with its call for the destruction of Israel - the latest retort reflecting increasing diplomatic tensions between Rome and Tehran.
The Italian Foreign Ministry issued a blistering statement after Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi spoke scathingly about Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini.
Fini skipped a pro-Israel rally Thursday outside Iran's embassy in Rome, saying he feared Tehran might retaliate against Italian interests, although he encouraged others to join the protest.
During his weekly news conference, the Iranian spokesman said Fini's comments were "not compatible with the role of foreign minister and with the glory and honor of the Italian nation."
In an interview in Corriere della Sera on Saturday, Fini said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with his anti-Israeli call, merely said what many others think "but have not always dared speak with such brutality."
"Not recognizing Israel's right to exist is an incentive for terrorism because the moment you don't recognize a state's right to exist, you don't recognize a people's right to exist," Fini was quoted as saying. "Ahmadinejad's words help those who are working to make sure the Middle East never stabilizes, and fuels ... the fire that fuels terrorism."