President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments were harsher than those of his more moderate predecessor.
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s hard-line president called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks will destroy the Jewish state, state-run media reported today.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also denounced attempts to recognize Israel or normalize relations with it.
“There is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will wipe off this stigma (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world,” Ahmadinejad told students today during a Tehran conference called “The World without Zionism.”
“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,” Ahmadinejad said.
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Ahmadinejad also repeated the words of the founder of Iran’s Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called for the destruction of Israel.
“As the imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map,” said Ahmadinejad, who came to power in August and replaced Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who advocated international dialogue and tried to improve Iran’s relations with the West.
Ahmadinejad referred to Israel’s recent withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a “trick,” saying Gaza was already a part of Palestinian lands and the pullout was designed to win acknowledgment of Israel by Islamic states.
“The fighting in Palestine is a war between the (whole) Islamic nation and the world of arrogance,” Ahmadinejad said, using Tehran’s propaganda epithet for the United States and Israel. “Today, Palestinians are representing the Islamic nation against arrogance.”
Iran does not recognize the existence of Israel and has often called for its destruction.
Israel has been at the forefront of nations calling and end to Iran’s nuclear program, which the United States and many others in the West say is aimed at acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Iran says the program is for generating electricity.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Ahmadinejad’s comment “reconfirms what we have been saying about the regime in Iran. It underscores the concerns we have about Iran’s nuclear intentions.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Baptiste Mattei condemned Ahmadinejad’s remarks “with the utmost firmness.”
Harsh words for Israel are common in Iran, especially at this time of year, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In Iran, this Friday — the last Muslim day of prayer in the Ramadan holiday — has been declared Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day. Rallies were slated in support of Palestinians — and against Israel’s occupation of parts of the city and other Palestinian lands.
Other Iranian politicians also have issued anti-Israeli statements, in attempts to whip up support for Friday’s nationwide Quds Day demonstrations.
But Ahmadinejad’s strident anti-Israeli statements on the eve of the demonstration were harsher than those issued during the term of the reformist Khatami and harkened back to Khomeini’s fiery speeches. Ahmadinejad was a longtime member of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, which even operates a division dubbed the Quds Division, a rhetorical reference to Tehran’s hopes of one day ending Israel’s domination of Islam’s third-holiest city.
After his election, Ahmadinejad received the support of the powerful hard-line Revolutionary Guards, who report directly to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Last year, a senior member of the guards attended a meeting that called for and accepted applications for suicide bombers to target U.S. troops and Israelis.
Iran announced earlier this year that it had fully developed solid fuel technology for missiles, a major breakthrough that increases their accuracy.
The Shahab-3, with a range of 810 miles to 1,200 miles, is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East.