Iranian president: 'Wipe Israel off map'

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosts "World without Zionism" conference.

Ahmadinejad 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Ahmadinejad 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
For a decade no Iranian official of significance dared utter the words that Iran's new hard-line president said Wednesday. But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an audience in Teheran that "Israel must be wiped off the map" and threatened Muslim countries that recognized Israel.

Iran's president did not stop there, continuing his vitriol during a speech at a conference called "A World Without Zionism." Ahmadinejad told the audience that the "new wave" of Palestinian attacks would destroy Israel, that Muslim countries that made peace with Israel would "burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury" and that a world without the US and Israel would be possible, reported the Iranian government news agency, IRNA.

Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres called for Israel to work to get Iran kicked out of the United Nations, saying Ahmadinejad's comments represented a "crime against humanity."

"The president of Iran's call is even more grave in light of Iran's attempts to develop nuclear weapons and acquire long range missiles," Peres wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"Israel should immediately turn to the general-secretary of the UN and to the Security Council with an unequivocal demand to distance Iran from the UN."

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said the comments only served to underline the need to send the file on Iran's nuclear development to the UN Security Council for the imposition of sanctions.

"This is not the first time they said they want to destroy the state of Israel," Shalom said. "Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said the same thing not long ago when he said that one missile from Iran to Israel could destroy the Jewish state. We should know that this type of regime is a very extreme one. We believe that the time has come to move Iran to the [UN] Security Council, and the sooner the better."

Ahmadinejad's comments brought immediate condemnations from Western countries, including France and Germany who, with Britain, are involved in key negotiations with Teheran over its controversial nuclear program.

However, the countries stood firm on denouncing the president's words.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said, "If these comments were indeed made, they are unacceptable. "

The German Foreign Ministry was also concerned. Spokesman Walter Lindner said the comments were "completely unacceptable and to be condemned in the sharpest terms."

The White House also said that the Iranian president's words underlined US concerns about Teheran's nuclear ambitions.

"It just reconfirms what we have been saying about the regime in Iran. It underscores the concerns we have about Iran's nuclear operations," spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

Ahmadinejad speech had been directed to an audience of Palestinian militant groups residing in Teheran, members of the Society to Defend the Palestinian Nation as well as the Pupils Islamic Association.

His speech included a claim that Israel's establishment was a conspiracy and he warned other countries against making peace with it.

"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury [while] any [Islamic leader] who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world," he said. He also called the recent pullout from Gaza a "trick" to get Islamic states to recognize Israel.

"The Palestinian issue would end when a government belonging to the Palestinian people takes over, the homeless return home and a free election is held to form a government representing all people," Ahmadinejad added.

Herb Keinon and AP contributed to this report.