'Celebrations won't stop Israel's annihilation'

Ahmadinejad: Region's nations will use "smallest, shortest opportunity" to "uproot this regime."

ahmadinejad 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
ahmadinejad 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Israel is dying and that its 60th anniversary celebrations are an attempt to prevent its "annihilation." The Iranian president's comments came as US President George W. Bush was in Israel as the headline speaker for the Jewish state's anniversary celebrations. President Shimon Peres has brought together world leaders past and present in Jerusalem for the occasion. "The Zionist regime is dying," said Ahmadinejad during a speech in northern Iran. "The criminals assume that by holding celebrations ... they can save the sinister Zionist regime from death and annihilation." The hardline Iranian president used an Arabic word, ismihlal, that can also be translated as destruction, death and collapse. Iran doesn't recognize Israel, and Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction. The threatening exchanges between Iran and Israel have intensified since 2005, when Ahmadinejad said in a speech that Israel will one day be "wiped off the map." The Iranian leader has also alleged that the Holocaust was a "myth." "Nations of the region hate this criminal fabricated regime [Israel] and will uproot this fabricated regime if the smallest and shortest opportunity is given to them," said Ahmadinejad on Wednesday during his address, which was broadcast live on state television. Israel considers Iran a serious threat because of its nuclear program and its arsenal of long-range missiles, which can be fitted with nuclear warheads and are capable of striking the Jewish state. Teheran is equipped with Shahab-3 missiles, which have a range of up to 2,000 kilometers. Israel is about 1,000 kilometers west of Iran. Israel and the US accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover to build atomic weapons. Iran has denied the charges saying its nuclear program is geared merely toward generating electricity, not bomb making. Peres recently said he doesn't rule out a military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but said Israel would not act on its own against Teheran's nuclear program. For its part, Israel is widely believed to have a large stockpile of nuclear weapons, but follows a policy it calls "nuclear ambiguity" and has never acknowledged or denied having a nuclear weapons program. Iranian military officials have warned Israel in recent years that Iran would destroy Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor if the Jewish state were to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.