AP: Italy said Sunday that Iran was isolating itself with its call
for the destruction of Israel – the latest retort reflecting increasing diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
By MARIA SANMINIATELLI
Associated Press Writer
ROME (AP) – Italy said Sunday that Iran was isolating itself with its call for the destruction of Israel – the latest retort reflecting increasing diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
“No one wants to isolate Iran,” Italy’s Foreign Ministry said. “On the contrary we all hope that Tehran, adopting responsible conduct, wants to play a role of stabilization in its region, but it is Iran which inevitably isolates itself the moment it denies the right to exist to another state and other people.”
The statement came in response to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi’s criticism of Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini.
Asefi criticized Fini for calling on the international community to help guarantee Israel’s security and condemning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s assertion last month that the Jewish state should be “wiped off the map.”
Fini’s comments are “not compatible with the role of foreign minister and with the glory and honor of the Italian nation,” Asefi said during his weekly news conference Sunday.
The Italian ministry shot back, saying, “Minister Fini certainly cannot accept lessons on conduct coming from a foreign (ministry) spokesman.”
Italy had good relations with Iran’s previous leadership and in the past has pledged to help bring Tehran closer to the European Union. The election of the ultraconservative Ahmadinejad, however, has strained ties between the two countries.
On Thursday, Fini skipped a pro-Israel rally outside Iran’s embassy in Rome, saying he feared Tehran might retaliate against Italian interests, but he encouraged others to participate.
In an interview published in Saturday’s editions of Corriere della Sera daily, Fini said Ahmadinejad’s Oct. 26 remark reflected what many others think “but have not always dared speak with such brutality.”
“Not recognizing Israel’s right to exist is an incentive for terrorism because the moment you don’t recognize a state’s right to exist, you don’t recognize a people’s right to exist,” Fini said.
Fini also urged Iran to be transparent about its nuclear aspirations, saying it was not in the interest of the international community to isolate Iran.
“No one is thinking about an armed conflict with Iran,” he said.
During a visit to Israel earlier in the week, Fini said Italy wants Iran to be referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions for its suspect nuclear program.
The United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is scheduled to meet later this month to decide whether to refer Iran to the Security Council.
Iran says its nuclear program is exclusively for generating electricity.