Reuters: Europe strongly condemned Iran’s president on Thursday for saying Israel should be wiped out and said the call raised concerns about the aims of a country the West suspects is planning to build an atomic bomb. By David Clarke
LONDON, Oct 27 (Reuters) – Europe strongly condemned Iran’s president on Thursday for saying Israel should be wiped out and said the call raised concerns about the aims of a country the West suspects is planning to build an atomic bomb.
Support for the Palestinian cause is a central policy pillar for the Islamic Republic, which does not recognise Israel, and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday the Jewish state should be “wiped off the map”.
European Union leaders and Russia joined the United States and Canada in roundly condemning the comments attributed to Ahmadinejad and Iranian envoys in capitals across Europe were summoned to explain the remarks.
“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,” EU leaders said in a statement issued at a one-day summit outside London.
“Such comments will cause concern about Iran’s role in the region, and its future intentions,” they said.
Under reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s eight-year tenure Iran had shown signs of easing its hostility towards Israel and officials said Tehran might not object to a two-state solution to the Arab-Israel dispute, if Palestinians wanted it.
But Ahmadinejad, a former member of the hardline Revolutionary Guards and traditional religious conservative who came to power earlier this year, made no mention of that possibility.
Tehran also supports Palestinian militant groups such as the Islamic Jihad faction behind a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis on Wednesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Iran should be expelled from the United Nations.
A statement from the prime minister’s office quoted Sharon as saying: “A country that calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member of the United Nations.”
“Such a country that has nuclear weapons is a danger, not only to Israel and the Middle East, but also to Europe,” he said in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Lavrov said Ahmadinejad’s comments were unacceptable and would give powers seeking to halt Iran’s nuclear programme more arguments to refer the Islamic Republic to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a later statement, denounced what it called “propagandist rhetoric” and said it hoped “that Tehran will realise the extent of damage that can be inflicted by confrontational approaches”.
The United States accuses Iran of seeking nuclear arms but Tehran denies that, saying it needs atomic fuel only for power stations. Iran has developed ballistic missiles able to hit Israel.
Russia and China oppose the referral of Iran to the U.N., saying the uranium conversion it is carrying out is a step short of the actual enrichment needed to produce atomic weapons.
An influential London-based think tank said this week that if Iran made a bomb it could spark an arms race as countries such as Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia may seek one too.
Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Ireland and Italy all sent strong messages of condemnation on Thursday to Iranian envoys in their countries.
“The content and tone of such unacceptable comments confirmed worries over the policies being followed by the new Iranian leadership, particular concerning the nuclear issue,” said Italy’s foreign ministry.
Josep Borrell, president of the European parliament, said he was “shocked, outraged and revolted” by the Iranian comments.
“For its part, the EU remains committed to a solution to the Arab-Israel dispute based on the principle of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. It urges all parties in the region to do their utmost to bring that vision to fulfilment,” the EU leaders’ statement said.
(Additional reporting by Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem, Maria Golovnina in Moscow and European bureaux)