Iran General NewsIran stands firm on Israel remark

Iran stands firm on Israel remark

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BBC News: Iran has defended its president’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, saying this has been its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution. BBC News

Iran has defended its president’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, saying this has been its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki said Tehran officially did not recognise the “illegitimate Zionist regime”. Tehran is staging an anti-Israel rally.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s words provoked international outrage, but Muslim countries have not reacted.

However, a senior Palestinian official rejected the Iranian position.

“Palestinians recognise the right of the state of Israel to exist and I reject his comments,” chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the BBC News website.

“What we need to be talking about is adding the state of Palestine to the map and not wiping Israel from the map,” he said.

World outrage

Mr Ahmadinejad made his comments on Wednesday in Tehran at a conference entitled The World without Zionism.

Referring to Iran’s late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mr Ahmadinejad said: “As the imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map.”

After the foreign minister’s remarks, Iran’s embassy in Moscow published a statement saying the president had not intended to use such strong words.

“Mr Ahmadinejad did not have any intention to speak up in such sharp terms and enter into a conflict,” it said.

“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.”

Mr Mottaki said the demonstration in Tehran on Friday would illustrate the anger of the Islamic world about the existence of Israel.

Every year on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan, Iran organises a large rally to show solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.

It is likely that President Ahmadinejad’s remarks were aimed at rallying support for this event, the BBC’s Frances Harrison in Tehran says.

But the comments caused several European countries to summon Iran’s ambassadors to hear official protests and led Israel to call for Iran to be expelled from the United Nations.

So far no action has been taken at the UN, even though Secretary General Kofi Annan took the unusual step of rebuking Iran for the comments.

Nuclear link

Iran has dismissed the international furore as a means of pressing Iran to compromise on its nuclear programme.

Negotiations have stalled between the EU and Iran over attempts to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Iranian leader’s words underlined US concerns about Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The US suspects Iran of wanting to acquire atomic weapons but Tehran insists it wants nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

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