US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
gave her strongest rebuke yet on Sunday to the renewed hardline Islamic leadership of Iran, saying that "no civilized nation" can call for the annihilation of another.
Rice was referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's
remark last month that Israel
is a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the map." Her remarks drew applause from politicians, diplomats and others gathered for a US-Israeli symposium.
"No civilized nation should have a leader who wishes or hopes or desires or considers it a matter of policy to express that ... some another country should be pushed into the sea," Rice said, speaking slowly and sternly. "It is unacceptable in the international system."
Speaking a day after part of her agenda for political openness in the Middle East ran into heavy weather, Rice also said the Bush administration is under no illusions about the difficulty of spreading democracy in the region.
"We are not naive about the pace, or difficulty, of democratic change," Rice said. "but we know that the longing for democratic change is deep and urgently felt."