By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
said on Wednesday that Israel should be “wiped off the map,”
the official IRNA news agency reported.
Support for the Palestinian cause is a central pillar of
the Islamic Republic which officially refuses to recognize
Israel’s right to exist.
“Israel must be wiped off the map,” Ahmadinejad told a
conference called “The World without Zionism,” attended by some
3,000 conservative students who chanted “Death to Israel” and
“Death to America.”
Under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, whose
eight-year tenure ended earlier this year, Iran had shown signs
of easing its implacable hostility toward Israel. Officials
said Tehran might not object to a two-state solution if that
was what the Palestinians wanted.
But Ahmadinejad, a former member of the hard-line
Revolutionary Guards and traditional religious conservative,
said there could be no let-up in its hostility to Israel.
“The Islamic world will not let its historic enemy live in
its heartland,” he said.
White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said Washington took
such remarks seriously.
“It underscores the concerns we have about Iran’s nuclear
intentions,” he told reporters.
The United States accuses Iran of seeking nuclear arms,
whereas Tehran says it needs atomic fuel only for power
stations. Iran has developed ballistic missiles able to hit
Tehran denies accusations it trains and arms Palestinian
militant groups, saying it offers only moral support.
French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy said that he had been
informed of the reported remarks and had summoned Iran’s
ambassador to the Foreign Ministry to explain the comments.
“If these (reported) comments are true, they are
unacceptable. I condemn them with the greatest firmness,” he
said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Swaha Pattanaik in Paris)