Peres resumes hard line against Iran

Ahmadinejad says Israel is "a tyrannical regime that one day will be destroyed."

peres waiving finger 88 (photo credit: )
peres waiving finger 88
(photo credit: )
As Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched yet another verbal salvo at Israel on Thursday, branding it "a tyrannical regime that one day will be destroyed," Vice Premier Shimon Peres issued his second riposte of the week, urging the international community to unite to thwart Teheran's nuclear drive. A nuclear Iran, Peres warned, would pass on such a capability to terror groups, and the nuclear threat would "crop up in every international conflict." Ignoring advice by Israel's security chiefs to eschew a battle of rhetoric, Peres, who had responded to Iran's threats to destroy Israel by noting earlier this week that Iran too could be wiped off the map, said Israel needed to stand firm in the face of would-be aggressors and that it would not be pushed around by Iran's leaders. Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz had said following Peres's first remarks that Israel did not need "to jump head-first into the Iranian problem." Meanwhile, officials in Germany said they had been informed by their Iranian counterparts that Ahmadinejad would not come to Germany next month to support his country in soccer's World Cup. The prospect of him cheering from the VIP ranks of a German football stadium had bred divisions among German government officials, with some politicians demanding a ban, but the Interior Ministry saying it would not deny him entry - despite the Iranian president's repeated denial of the Holocaust, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. The international football association FIFA also said it had no objection to his presence. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles has led demands for him to be prevented from attending, and a German group, the "Appeal of 11," has been petitioning for a ban, citing the need to repeat a scenario like the 1936 Olympics, when world leaders gathered in Berlin despite the rise of the Nazis. Ahmadinejad's latest Israel-bashing came in remarks to cheering students and in a television interview during his visit to Indonesia. He said that European countries were driven by anti-Semitism when they decided after the Holocaust to establish a Jewish state in the midst of Muslim countries. They wanted the Jews out of their own backyard, he said, and paved the way for their ultimate destruction. The president also said he was ready to negotiate with the US and its allies - although emphatically not Israel - over his country's nuclear program, but also suggested that any threats against Teheran would make the dialogue more difficult. Asked what it would take to begin talks with the US to resolve the standoff, Ahmadinejad told Metro TV that Iran "is ready to engage in dialogue with anybody... But if someone points a weapon at your face and says you must speak, will you do that?" Key UN Security Council members agreed Tuesday to postpone a resolution that would have delivered an ultimatum to Teheran, giving Iran another two weeks to reevaluate its insistence on developing its uranium enrichment capabilities. The Chinese and Russians have balked at the British, French and US efforts to put the resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Such a move would declare Iran a threat to international peace and security and set the stage for further measures if Teheran refuses to suspend its uranium enrichment operations. Those measures could range from breaking diplomatic relations to economic sanctions and military action. Ahmadinejad told cheering crowds of students in the Indonesian capital that it was the right of every country - not just the US - to use new technology to meet energy needs. The US accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Teheran denies, saying it aims only to generate energy. "We are not only defending our rights, we are defending the rights of many other countries," he added. "By maintaining our position, we are defending our independence." Ahmadinejad also said Western nations with large stocks of nuclear weapons were practicing "double standards" in pressing Iran to stop its "peaceful" nuclear program. "The big powers... have a lot of nuclear weapons in their warehouse," he told about 1,000 students at Islamic University on Jakarta's southern outskirts. "We want to use technology for peace and the welfare of the Muslim people around the world," he said. "But they want to use it to invade other countries. This is the difference between us and them." Ahmadinejad also criticized the US and European nations over their response to the Palestinian elections. "When the Palestinian people were holding their general election, [the United States and its European allies], which espouse liberalism and democracy, showed a bad attitude by not recognizing the Palestinian government," he said. The students who crammed into auditoriums at the Islamic University and, earlier in the day at the University of Indonesia, applauded Ahmadinejad enthusiastically and listened intently throughout his 60- to 90-minute speeches. They held signs saying "Iran in Our Hearts," and "Nuclear for Peace," and some praised him for not wavering in the face of opposition from the US. "I loved him, he was very charismatic," said a first-year economics student who identified herself as Deslina. "If it comes to that, they should go to war. If I could, I would fight the United States." Indonesia, which supports Iran's right to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful means, is considered by Washington to be a close ally in its war on terror and offered Wednesday to mediate in the crisis. Like Iran, it does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.