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Ahmadinejad: Wipe Israel off map

Wednesday 26 October 2005, 19:03 Makka Time, 16:03 GMT

Ahmadinejad addressed students at a conference

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has openly called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

"The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world," the president told a conference in Tehran on Wednesday, entitled The World without Zionism.

"The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land," he said.

"As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," said Ahmadinejad, referring to Iran's revolutionary leader Ayat Allah Khomeini.

His comments were the first time in years that such a high-ranking Iranian official has called for Israel's eradication, even though such slogans are still regularly used at government

Call for unity

Addressing about 4000 students gathered in an Interior Ministry conference hall, Ahmadinejad also called for Palestinian unity, resistance and a point "where the annihilation of the Zionist regime will come".

Khatami was in favour of
'dialogue among civilisations'

"The Islamic umma (community) will not allow its historic enemy to live in its heartland," he said in the fiery speech that centred on a "historic war between the oppressor and the world of Islam".

The term "oppressor" is used by the clerical government to refer to the United States.

"We should not settle for a piece of land," he said of Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip.

"Anyone who signs a treaty which recognises the entity of Israel means he has signed the surrender of the Muslim world," Ahmadinejad said.

"Any leaders in the Islamic umma who recognise Israel face the wrath of their own people."

Major change

Ahmadinejad, a veteran of Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards, took office in August after scoring a landslide win in a June presidential election.

His tone represents a major change from that of former president Mohammad Khatami, whose favoured topic was "dialogue among civilisations" and who led an effort to improve Iran's relations with the West.

But Ahmadinejad instead spoke of a "historic war".

"It dates backs hundreds of years. Sometimes Islam has advanced. Sometimes nobody was winning. Unfortunately over the past 300 years, the world of Islam has been in retreat," he lamented.

"The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land"

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President of Iran

"One hundred years ago the last trench of Islam fell, when the oppressors went towards the creation the Zionist regime. It is using it as a fort to spread its aims in the heart of the Islamic world."

In September, Bahrain announced it was ending a decades-old law banning trade ties with Israel. Earlier this month, Qatar said it was donating US$6 million to help build a soccer stadium for a mixed Arab-Jewish team, the first such financial assistance by an Arab state for any town inside Israel.

Unprecedented steps

The modest but unprecedented steps were seen as a response to Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in September. Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad said, "There is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world."

"Ahmadinejad has clearly declared the doctrine of his government. He is returning Iran to the revolutionary goals it was pursuing in the 1980s," said Mohammad Sadeq Hosseini, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs.

"By these comments, Ahmadinejad is committing himself to those goals. He is also sending the message that his government won't back down."

Israeli response

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev issued a vague response. "Today, Israelis heard two extremists speak openly about destroying the Jewish state. One was the new president of Iran, and the other was the leader of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar.

Scott McClellan said US fears
have proved accurate

"And it appears the problem with these extremists is that they followed through on their violent declarations with violent actions."

The United States said Ahmadinejad's remarks proved the accuracy of Washington's fears about Iran's contentious nuclear programme.

"I think it reconfirms what we have been saying about the regime in Iran. It underscores the concerns we have about Iran's nuclear intentions," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Ebrahim Yazdi, a former Iranian foreign minister, said Ahmadinejad's remarks harmed Iran.

"Such comments provoke the international community against us. It's not to Iran's interests at all. It's harmful to Iran to make such a statement," he said.

He said the comments gave Israel justification for urging the world to take a tougher stand against Iran and refer its nuclear programme to the UN Security Council for

possible sanctions.



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