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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Iran's New President Says Israel 'Must Be Wiped Off the Map' 

http://www.nytimes.com/

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: October 27, 2005

TEHRAN, Oct. 26 - Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told a group of students at an anti-Israel event on Wednesday that Israel "must be wiped off the map" and that attacks by Palestinians would destroy it, the ISNA news agency reported.

He was speaking to about 4,000 students at a program called "The World Without Zionism," in preparation for an annual anti-Israel demonstration held on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.

His tone was reminiscent of that of the early days of Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. Iran and Israel have been bitter enemies since then, and anti-Israel slogans have been common at rallies.

Senior officials had avoided provocative language in the last decade, but Mr. Ahmadinejad appears to be taking a more confrontational tone than have recent Iranian leaders.

He said on Wednesday that the issue of a Palestinian state would be resolved only when Palestinians took control of all their lands.

"The establishment of a Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world," the news agency reported him as saying. "The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of the war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land."

Referring to comments by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, "As the imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map."

Mr. Ahmadinejad's predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, in contrast, had proposed a dialogue among civilizations and pursued a policy of d├ętente.

At the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April, Mr. Khatami was seated close to the Israeli president, Moshe Katsav, who said he shook hands and chatted briefly with Mr. Khatami. Mr. Katsav was born in the Iranian city of Yazd, which is Mr. Khatami's hometown.

But despite media photos that showed the two men standing next to each other, Mr. Khatami denied the account after he returned to Iran.

In response to Mr. Ahmadinejad's remarks, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said, "Unfortunately, this is not the first time we've seen such extreme statements from senior Iranian leaders," adding, "We see today that there is a growing understanding in the international community that the extremist regime in Tehran is not just Israel's problem, but rather an issue that the entire international community must grapple with."

Israel contends that Iran finances a number of Palestinian armed factions that carry out attacks against Israel, including Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least five people on Wednesday in the Israeli coastal town of Hadera.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said that the remarks reconfirmed "what we have been saying about this particular regime in Iran."

"I think that it only serves to underscore our concern, as well as the international community's concern, about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons," he added.

Mr. Ahmadinejad on Wednesday also called Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip a trick, and said that Gaza was part of Palestinian territories and that the withdrawal was aimed at persuading Islamic nations to acknowledge Israel.

"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury," he said. He added that any Islamic leader "who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world."

Greg Myre contributed reporting from Jerusalem for this article.

----

INTERNATIONAL REACTIONS:

Israeli ambassador to UN asks world body to expel Iran

By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies
http://www.haaretz.com/
Thu., October 27, 2005 Tishrei 24, 5766

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Gillerman, on Thursday asked the rotating president of the UN Security Council to expel Iran from the world body in response to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call Wednesday for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Gillerman wrote in a letter that Ahmadinejad's comments require a strong and decisive response from the international community, Israel Radio reported. He said no country that calls for violence and destruction should be allowed membership in the UN.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed "dismay" Thursday over the comments, saying the UN charter is opposed to threats or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state.

"Israel is a long-standing member of the United Nations with the same rights and obligations as every other member," Annan said in a statement.

He said he plans to visit Iran in "the next few weeks" and would put the Middle East peace process and the right of all states to live in peace and security within secure borders at the top of his agenda.

Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Vice Premier Shimon Peres initiated the calls for Iran's expulsion from the UN.

"The prime minister said that a state which calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member of the United Nations," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

"I don't see such a crazy declaration being done by a head of state, a member of the United Nations; it is unbearable," Peres told a news conference. "[Ahmadinejad] cannot remain a member."

Israel's deputy ambassador to Britain, Zvi Rav-Ner, said it was unheard of for a UN member state to call "for genocide and wiping off of another member state of the UN."

"This is a clear contravention and breach of the UN charter and it should be dealt with by the international community," he told BBC radio.

The comments came amid widespread condemnation by European leaders, the United States, Canada, Australia and the Palestinian Authority.

EU rejects calls for violence

EU leaders said no country that claimed to be a responsible member of the international community could make such a call.

"EU leaders ... today condemned in the strongest terms the comments in respect of the State of Israel attributed to President Ahmadinejad of Iran," EU leaders said in a statement issued at a one-day summit outside London.

"Calls for violence, and for the destruction of any state, are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community," they said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he condemned the Iranian statement "absolutely." Asked whether he believed Iran should be expelled from the UN, Barroso said: "I will not make any concrete proposal now."

"It is a completely unacceptable statement, of course," Barroso told BBC radio. "We should respect borders and respect the integrity of Israel, and we want Israel to live in peace with its neighbors."

Erekat: Comments not acceptable

Although most Arab leaders maintained silence Thursday over Ahmadinejad's statements, senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday said the comments were not acceptable.

"This is unacceptable to us," Erekat said. "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."

Analysts said Tehran's Arab rivals may quietly be pleased to see the radical regime further isolated by its extremism.

Newspapers across the Middle East reported Wednesday's speech without comment, many of them on their front pages.

Ahmadinejad's comments on Israel, which he made at a conference called "The World without Zionism," were originally reported by the official Iranian news agency Wednesday.

Ahmadinejad said a new wave of Palestinian attacks would destroy Israel, and he denounced attempts to recognize Israel or normalize relations with it, the media reports said. He 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," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has refused to recognize Israel's right to exist, and supports Palestinian militant groups such as Islamic Jihad, the group behind a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis Wednesday.

Russian FM to Sharon: Iranian envoy must explain

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who is in Israel for meetings with officials, told Sharon on Thursday that Ahmadinejad's comments are unacceptable to Russia and that the Iranian ambassador to Moscow has been asked to provide an explanation.

"I don't agree that anyone should challenge the right of any UN member to exist," he said earlier in the day. "This is indeed inadmissible."

"I think this does not add to efforts of those who are trying to normalize the situation around Iran," said Lavrov. "Those who insist on transfering the Iranian nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council received an additional argument to do so."

Austria "resolutely rejects" Ahmadinejad's comments, said Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik. Plassnik said her ministry had summoned the Iranian envoy in Vienna for discussions about the matter.

Catholic Action of Austria, a leading Austrian Roman Catholic layman's organization, said in a statement Thursday that it was the responsibility of all Christian believers to defend Israel's right to exist, and it deplored Ahmadinejad's hostility as "intolerable."

"This murderous call from Tehran must not stand without international consequences," the organization said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday he has "never come across a situation of the president of a country saying they want to ... wipe out another country." He said the comments made him feel "revulsion."

"Their attitude towards Israel, their attitude towards terrorism, their attitude on the nuclear weapons issue, it isn't acceptable, he said at the close of a EU summit outside London. "Can you imagine a state like that with an attitude like that having a nuclear weapon?"

French officials on Thursday told Iran's ambassador to Paris that Israel's right to exist "cannot be contested," condemning the Iranian president's call for the destruction of Israel.

The Iranian ambassador to France, Sadegh Kharrazi, was summoned to the French Foreign Ministry on Thursday morning and asked for "clarifications" of the remarks by Ahmadinejad.

The ambassador "was reminded that the right of Israel to exist cannot be contested. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot serve as a pretext for calling into question this fundamental right," French Foreign Ministry
spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said. "The ambassador took note of this demarche and indicated that he would report it to his authorities."

Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos summoned Iran's ambassador to protest Ahmadinejad's comments.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said the incident "underscores the concerns we have about Iran's nuclear intentions."

"Of course, we are opposed to Iranian policies with regard to Israel, we are opposed with regard to the nuclear policy, with regard to their support of terror, with regard to their negative policies in Iraq," the Voice of America quoted the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmy Khalilzad, as saying.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, said he wanted to "vigorously condemn the remarks made by Iran's president. We are in the 21st century. Canada will never accept such hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism. Never."

"The comments are all the more troubling given Iran's nuclear ambitions and its refusal to cooperate fully with International Atomic Energy inspectors," Pettigrew said.

----

Iran defends and repeats its threats against Israel yet again.

UN Secretary-General Annan urged to cancel visit to Iran

By Shlomo Shamir and Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies
http://www.haaretz.com/
Sun., October 30, 2005 Tishrei 27, 5766

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been asked to cancel an official visit to Tehran due to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel's destruction.

Ambassadors from UN Security Council member states have recommended to Annan that he call off next week's trip, Haaretz has learned. In private conversations, the ambassadors told Annan that his presence in a country whose leader has called for the destruction of another UN member would be misleading, and could be interpreted as contradicting the secretary-general's public condemnation of the remarks.

Annan expressed "dismay" at the comments in a rare rebuke of a UN member state. Russia, a key ally of Iran, also summoned the Iranian ambassador seeking an explanation for Ahmadinejad's remarks.

United States ambassador to the UN John Bolton has spoken publicly against Annan's planned visit to Iran at this time.

After the Security Council denounced Ahmadinejad's comments, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said: "The international support in defense of Israel clearly indicates the great improvement in Israel's international standing. The UN, for years a hostile arena, is taking a new position, decisively against those who threaten Israel."

Shalom said the next step would be the Security Council addressing the Iranian nuclear program.

Iran hit back Friday at the Security Council, after the body condemned Ahmadinejad's remarks. The Security Council issued a statement Friday reminding Iran that member states must refrain from threatening the use of force against each other.

"The statement by the president of the UN Security Council was proposed by the Zionist regime to close the eyes to its crimes and to change the facts, therefore it is not acceptable," Iran's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Iran is loyal to its commitments based on the UN charter, and it has never used or threatened to use force against any country," the statement added.

On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad demanded the Jewish state be "wiped off the map," and he defended the call Friday during nationwide protests. The comments drew wide international criticism.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said the international community was treating Iran unfairly, accusing it of not coming to Tehran's defense any time it comes under attack from the United States or Israel over claims it is developing nuclear weapons or supporting Islamic militants.

"How many sessions were held by the Security Council over the U.S. and Israeli threats against Iran?" the Foreign Ministry statement read.

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's supreme national security council, said the intense opposition from the West to Ahmadinejad's comments stem from the campaign against its nuclear program. "The reactions to Ahmadinejad's comment showed that the diplomatic machines of some Western countries are influenced by the hue and cry of propaganda," state-run Iran radio said.

Iranian president says not threatening attack on Israel

In an apparent bid to calm the international fury ignited by Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map," Tehran said on Saturday it stood by its UN commitments not to use violence against another country.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is committed to its UN charter commitments," a Foreign Ministry statement read. "It has never used force against a second country or threatened the use of force."

Ahmadinejad's remarks were condemned by the UN Security Council and capitals across the world summoned Iranian ambassadors to explain the president's comment.

In Saturday's statment, Ahmadinejad also rejected the Security Council statement, saying it was "proposed by the Zionist regime to close the eyes to its crimes and to change the facts, therefore it is not acceptable," Iran's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Amidst the wave of international condemnation, an Iranian government official said on Friday that Iran is counting Venezuela as a friend and ally.

"We are two friendly countries, Iran and Venezuela ... When one is in need the other supports," Saeed Jalili, Iran's Vice Minister of Foreign Relations for Europe and America, said during a visit to Caracas.

Despite condemnations from the West and ally Russia, Ahmadinejad on Friday signaled he stood by his call for Israel to be eliminated.

Israel said it would request an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council over the comments.

Venezuela and Iran, both members of the oil exporters' cartel OPEC, have strengthened ties since President Hugo Chavez first won office in 1998 and tightened relations with other crude producing nations.

But Venezuela's Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez appealed for caution on Friday and said that the South American nation would have to consider the comments of the Islamic Republic.

"For us to fix a position we need the official versions of the respective countries," Rodriguez told journalists.

Meanwhile in Teheran, Over a million Iranians staged anti-Israel protests across the country as Ahmadinejad repeated his earlier call demanding Israel's destruction.

China and Turkey on Friday joined the list of nations around the world condemning Ahmadinejad's calls to destroy Israel.

The Vatican also condemned the Iranian leader's statement, calling it "particularly serious and unacceptable."

A U.K. tabloid newspaper, The Sun, called Ahmadinejad 'the most evil man in the world' in a huge two-page spread.

The Iranian demonstrations are being held as part of annual Al-Quds - Jerusalem - Day protests, which were first held in 1979 after Shi'ite Muslim clerics took power in Iran.

Ahmadinejad made an appearance at the Tehran rally and took a short walk with the crowd. He rejected the West's condemnation of his original comments that "Israel must be wiped off the map" as "invalid."

"My words were the Iranian nation's words. Westerners are free to comment, but their reactions are invalid," Ahmadinejad told the official IRNA news agency.

State-run television showed Ahmadinejad surrounded by protesters, many holding banners carrying anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian slogans including "Death to Israel, death to America."

Young girls wearing head-to-toe black chadors with green headbands covered in Islamic verses chanted anti-Israeli slogans below a banner showing caricatures of U.S. President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Just prior, however, Iran sought to smooth over the effects of Ahmadinejad's comments, saying through its Moscow embassy that he did not mean to "speak up in such sharp terms."

"Mr. Ahmadinejad did not have any intention to speak up in such sharp terms and enter into a conflict," the Iranian Embassy in Moscow said in a statement.

"It's absolutely clear that, in his remarks, Mr. Ahmadinejad, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, underlined the key position of Iran, based on the necessity to hold free elections on the occupied territories," the statement said.

China, Turkey condemn comments

China said Friday it disapproved of the Iranian president's calls to destroy Israel, saying such comments exacerbate Middle East tensions and made Beijing uneasy.

China's Foreign Ministry released a statement criticizing the comments by Ahmadinedjad.

"This kind of opinion violates the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and intensifies tensions in the Middle East and goes against the interests of the Middle East region and its people," said the statement, which was in response to a media request for comment.

"China feels unease regarding this opinion," it said, but did not elaborate.

Turkey, the only Muslim country to have close security ties with Israel, added its voice on Friday to the international condemnation of Ahmadinejad's remarks.

"Turkey believes that regional conflicts can only be solved through dialogue and peaceful methods," Foreign Ministry spokesman Namik Tan said in a statement.

"Turkey believes that international relations should be developed in a spirit of intercultural harmony and dialogue at a time when our world faces the danger of a clash between civilizations," Tan added. "Naturally it is not possible for us to approve of such a statement (by Ahmadinejad)," he said.

Israel calls for Iran's expulsion from UN

The Foreign Ministry was moving forward Friday with its diplomatic offensive against Iran, launched in response to the Iranian president's statement.

On Thursday, Israel called for the expulsion of Iran from the UN.

The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Gillerman, asked the rotating president of the UN Security Council to expel Iran from the world body. Gillerman wrote in a letter that Ahmadinejad's comments require a strong and decisive response from the international community, Israel Radio reported. He said no country that calls for violence and destruction should be allowed membership in the UN.

Sharon said at a meeting Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that a country which calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member of the UN. "Such a country that has nuclear weapons is a danger, not only to Israel and the Middle East, but also to Europe," Sharon said.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials convened Thursday to decide on the best policy for handling the issue. Some of the officials expressed reservations about the diplomatic offensive, saying it would be better for Israel to keep a low profile; however, this position was rejected.

The Iranian foreign ministry called on its ambassadors in Europe to adopt countermeasures in response to their summoning by European foreign ministries. It called on the Iranian diplomats to present their "serious protest" against the European ignorance of "crimes committed by the Zionists and suppression of the Palestinian nation."

Lavrov, meanwhile, said his government had condemned the statements and called in the Iranian ambassador to Moscow for clarification of the remarks. He said the Russian ambassador to Tehran had also been instructed to present an official condemnation.

Lavrov also met with Vice Premier Shimon Peres and said that Moscow is opposed to Iran's attempts to develop and produce nuclear weapons. He said that there was as yet no proof that Iran actually had nuclear weapons and that, according to Russia's information, it would take a long time before Tehran actually had nuclear capability.

Therefore, Lavrov added, the wide-scale diplomatic campaign against Iran should be continued unabated but care should be taken not to push Tehran to a point where it refuses to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as North Korea has done.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reprimanded Iran's president Thursday for calling for the destruction of Israel. Annan expressed "dismay" over Ahmadinejad's comments in a statement released in a special bulletin by his spokesman.

"Israel is a long-standing member of the United Nations with the same rights and obligations as every other member," Annan said in a statement. The UN Charter is opposed to threats or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state, he said. Annan said he plans to visit Iran in "the next few weeks" and would put the Middle East peace process and the right of all states to live in peace and safety within secure borders at the top of his agenda.

Hundreds stage anti-Israel march in Berlin

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the German capital on Saturday calling for freedom for the Palestinian territories as part of Iranian-inspired protests against Israel around the world.

The annual al-Quds - or Jerusalem - Day protest drew over 300 demonstrators, including many women and children, who marched peacefully through Berlin's Charlottenburg district.

Scores of city police escorted the marchers and shielded them from a group of noisy counter-protesters.

Authorities had banned the marchers from burning flags or carrying banners promoting violence in a bid to lower tensions after the Iranian president's call for Israel's destruction drew international condemnation.

The protesters' banners included one carried by two women wearing headscarves reading "Establishing democracy is the only solution for Palestine." Others shouted slogans such as "Hand in hand against Zionists" and "Freedom for Jerusalem."

The slogans were all in German at the request of authorities keen to monitor whether their conditions for allowing the march were being respected.

Speakers at a rally at the end of the march spoke out against terrorism, including "state terrorism." They made no direct mention of Israel.

About 150 people answered a call from opposition politicians and Jewish community leaders to stage a counter protest.

Riot police stopped a small number of them from crossing barriers keeping them away from the route of the march. Others chanted "Long live Israel" as the marchers went by. Police said they made no arrests.

The protest, instigated by Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, has been held in Berlin every year since 1995. Some 800 people attended in 2004.
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