Iran threatens to eliminate Israel

Deputy chief of staff responds to Ben-Eliezer's threat, says Teheran unconcerned by recent maneuvers.

iran revolutionary guard (photo credit: AP)
iran revolutionary guard
(photo credit: AP)
Iran will eliminate Israel if it attacks the Islamic Republic, Iran's deputy army chief warned Tuesday in words conjuring up Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats to wipe Israel off the map. "Should Israel take any action against Iran, we will eliminate Israel from the scene of the universe," Gen. Muhammad Reza Ashtiani said in Teheran on Tuesday. Ashtiani's statement followed Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's comment last week warning Iran that any attack on Israel would result in the "destruction of the Iranian nation." Ashtiani claimed Israel was "very vulnerable" and dismissed allegations that Iran was worried about Israeli maneuvers. "Due to its special conditions, Israel is very vulnerable in the region," he said. "The aggressors will face a crushing response." Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev responded by saying "these hateful and extreme statements from the Iranian leadership are unfortunately routine. The sad reality is that these statements expose the mind set and political agenda of the leadership in Teheran. Unfortunately these hateful words are backed up by very dangerous actions." Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel said that these comments illustrate the need for the international community to "work with more determination" and take steps to keep Iran, which is threatening to destroy another UN member state, from obtaining nuclear weapons. At the UN, the five permanent Security Council members and Germany will try this week to restart efforts to ensure Iran's nuclear intentions are peaceful. The talks in China on Wednesday in the commercial hub of Shanghai aim to follow up on a package of political, security and economic incentives offered to in Iran June 2006 in tandem with further sanctions to punish Teheran's defiance. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China hoped for an "in-depth discussion on the resumption of the relevant talks so as to find a way for the proper solution of the issue through dialogue." The one-day meeting intended to "send a positive signal to the world," Jiang said at a regularly scheduled news conference Tuesday. The US, Russia, Britain and France are also part of the discussions. Iran, which insists its program is peaceful, has snubbed such offers and rejected calls for greater transparency. A top Iranian official abruptly canceled a Monday meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, dealing a blow to IAEA efforts to investigate alleged attempts by Teheran to make nuclear arms, an agency official said. Last week, Ahmadinejad announced that his nation was installing thousands of new uranium-enriching centrifuges and testing a much faster version of the device. Ahmadinejad said scientists were putting 6,000 new centrifuges into place, about twice the current number, and testing a new type that works five times faster. That would represent a major expansion of uranium enrichment - a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or material for a warhead. Iran says it is only interested in the process to generate nuclear power and plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that ultimately will involve 54,000 centrifuges.