(photo credit: AP)
The Israeli and American delegations walked out of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Tuesday in the midst of a speech by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who charged the two countries are the main security threat in the Middle East.
"It was too much to swallow" from a country that has threatened to destroy his own, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yitzhak Levanon, told The Jerusalem Post by phone.
In addressing the Geneva-based United Nations body, which has representatives from 65 nations including Iran, Mottaki did not use the word Israel.
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Instead, he referred to it as "the Zionist regime," which he said had "a long and dark record of crimes and atrocities such as occupation, aggression, militarism, state terrorism, crimes against humanity and apartheid."
"It was an insult and a direct bashing of Israel," said Levanon. "The only way to show my disappointment was to walk out abruptly in a way that everyone would notice. Everyone knew that I was angry with what he said," said Levanon. The US delegation soon followed him, Levanon added.
Reflecting on Mottaki's comments, which included a call for sanctions against Israel, Levanon said, "My interpretation of their undiplomatic behavior is that they are under much pressure as the international community unites against Iran's pursuit of a nuclear regime, and that's why they started to bash us."
Mottaki told the world's top disarmament forum that it was Israel that should be the target of international attention. He said it was the only country in the region that refuses to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
He alluded to an interview Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave in December, which many interpreted as a sign that Israel posses nuclear weapons.
Olmert said his comments had been misinterpreted and that he had said nothing to that effect.
Mottaki said a nuclear-armed Israel posed "a uniquely grave threat to regional and international peace and security and requires to be seriously dealt with by the international community taking practical measures."
He noted the growing pressure being exerted on Iran by the UN Security Council, with a series of sanctions aimed at forcing the country to suspend uranium enrichment.
"It is surprising that while no practical step is taken to contain the real source of nuclear danger in the Middle East, my country is under tremendous pressure to renounce its inalienable right for peaceful use of nuclear energy," Mottaki said.
The other threat to the Middle East comes from the United States, he said, which invaded Iraq on the pretext of eliminating weapons of mass destruction and bringing increased security to the region.
"After years of searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it is obvious the preparation for the attack on Iraq was based on false or, in fact, forged information," Mottaki said.
"One can easily judge if there is more security or insecurity in the region as the result of such a huge military operation. Those who created such a situation in Iraq cannot disregard their responsibility," he said.
Officials at the US Mission to international bodies in Geneva confirmed that the American delegation had walked out.
"At a time when we're trying to find unity of purpose in the CD [Conference on Disarmament], such outrageous and divisive comments are not useful," said a statement from the mission.
The conference is supposed to negotiate disarmament treaties, but deep divisions over what weapons should be tackled next have left it little more than a forum for speeches since it created the nuclear test-ban treaty in 1996.
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