Israel tries to have Iran removed from UN

Israel's Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman, began trying to build a coalition Thursday in favor of expelling Iran from the UN, as governments around the globe condemned Iran for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel Wednesday diatriabe.

UN mathematics indicate that no such coalition could possibly prevail, but Israel is understood to be pursuing the effort nonetheless - both out of a sense of obligation and in the faint hope that the almost impossible might somehow happen.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Thursday that any country that calls for the destruction of another cannot be a member of the United Nations.

"Such a country, in possession of nuclear weapons, is a danger not only to Israel and the Middle East but to Europe as well," Sharon added.

Gillerman verbally relayed a similar message to the members of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, after Ahmadinejad's remarks were reported, and put it into writing on Thursday. Israel is also consulting with various countries to determine how to pursue the matter further.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, currently on a visit to France, called UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday to protest Ahmadinejad's remarks. Shalom said the remarks "removed the mask" from Iran and revealed its true intentions. He called on Annan to use his authority to unequivocally condemn the comments.

Annan's office issued a statement Thursday saying that the UN Secretary-General read Ahmadinejad's comments "with dismay." According to the statement, Annan wanted to remind all UN states that "Israel is a long-standing member of the United Nations with the same rights and obligations as every other member," and that "under the United Nations Charter, all members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."

The statement also said that Annan, who intended to visit Iran during the next few weeks "to discuss other issues" will now "place the Middle East peace process, and the right of all states in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force, at the top of his agenda for that visit."

Even as the world protested Ahmadinejad's remarks, and some countries such as France, Britain, Russia, Spain, Holland and Germany summoned Iranian diplomats to protest, no one immediately took up Israel's call to expel Iran from the world body.

Indeed the US, while strongly denouncing the comments, declined to support the call for expulsion.

"Iran is a member of the United Nations," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "What I think we would encourage instead is Iran to start behaving in a responsible manner as a member of the international community."

In this regard, the US official said Iran should stop seeking development of nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian program, end support of terrorism, and stop oppressing its own people.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel wanted "to present the regime in Iran with a dilemma, that if they chose to continue with language like this and continue with the polices they have adopted - support for terrorism, a continuation of their nuclear policies and so forth - they endanger their contacts and relationships with the organized international community." Regev said Israel was encouraged by the condemnations that came in from around the globe.

When Sharon, before his meeting with Lavrov, said that Israel had still not heard a Russian denunciation of the comments, Lavrov said that he had conveyed Russia's protest during an earlier meeting with Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres. He also said that the Iranian ambassador in Moscow had been summoned to provide an explanation, and that Russia's ambassador in Teheran had delivered a demarche.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said after chairing a one-day meeting of EU leaders that "these sentiments are completely and totally unacceptable. I felt a real sense of revulsion at those remarks."

The 25 EU leaders, meeting at Hampton Court Palace near London, issued a statement denouncing the remarks and saying they "will cause concern about Iran's role in the region and its future intentions."

EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana said that "if correctly reported, this position is unacceptable," and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he condemned the Iranian statement "absolutely."

Condemnations were also registered from the Palestinian Authority, with Saeb Erekat saying these comments were "unacceptable to us." "We have recognized the State of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and ... we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran. This is unacceptable," he said.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said Iranian Ambassador Sadegh Kharrazi "was reminded that the right of Israel to exist cannot be contested." The German Foreign Ministry also called in a representative of the Iranian Embassy to protest the comments, while Italy said the remarks confirmed concerns over Teheran's nuclear program.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said he was "shocked and saddened" by the remarks.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew condemned the comments in a strongly worded statement. "Canada will never accept such hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism. Never," the statement said.

The Czech Republic's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that it condemned Ahmadinejad's "uncivilized" threat that jeopardized the stability of the Middle East.