June 19, 2013
Ahmadinejad says Israel will be 'eliminated'
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday disregarded a UN warning to avoid incendiary rhetoric and declared ahead of the annual General Assembly session that Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be "eliminated."
Ahmadinejad also said he did not take seriously the threat that Israel could launch a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, denied sending arms to Syria, and alluded to Iran's threats to the life of British author Salman Rushdie.
The United States quickly dismissed the Iranian president's comments as "disgusting, offensive and outrageous."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted Israel could strike Iran's nuclear sites and criticized US President Barack Obama's position that sanctions and diplomacy should be given more time to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Iran denies it is seeking nuclear arms and says its atomic work is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.
"Fundamentally we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists," Ahmadinejad, in New York for this week's UN General Assembly, told reporters. "We have all the defensive means at our disposal and we are ready to defend ourselves."
On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Ahmadinejad and warned him of the dangers of incendiary rhetoric in the Middle East.
Ahmadinejad, who has used previous UN sessions to question the Holocaust and the US account of the 9/11 attacks, did not heed the warning and instead alluded to his previous rejection of Israel's right to exist.
"Iran has been around for the last seven, 10 thousand years. They (the Israelis) have been occupying those territories for the last 60 to 70 years, with the support and force of the Westerners. They have no roots there in history," he said, referring to the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948.
"We do believe that they have found themselves at a dead end and they are seeking new adventures in order to escape this dead end. Iran will not be damaged with foreign bombs," Ahmadinejad said, speaking though an interpreter at his Manhattan hotel.
"We don't even count them as any part of any equation for Iran. During a historical phase, they (the Israelis) represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated," he added.
In 2005, Ahmadinejad called Israel a "tumor" and echoed the words of the former Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, by saying that Israel should be wiped off the map.
In Washington, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel's security.
"President Ahmadinejad's comments are characteristically disgusting, offensive and outrageous. They underscore again why America's commitment to the security of Israel must be unshakeable, and why the world must hold Iran accountable for its utter failure to meet its obligations," Vietor said.
The United States also officially linked Iran's state oil company to the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a move that enables Washington to apply new sanctions on foreign banks dealing with the company.
Ahmadinejad also addressed a high-level UN meeting on the rule of law on Monday, and his remarks there prompted a walkout by Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor.
"Ahmadinejad showed again that he not only threatens the future of the Jewish people, he seeks to erase our past," Prosor said in a statement. "Three thousand years of Jewish history illustrate the clear danger of ignoring fanatics like Iran's president, especially as he inches closer to acquiring nuclear weapons."
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a brigadier general in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted on Sunday as saying that Iran could launch a pre-emptive strike on Israel if it was sure the Jewish state was preparing to attack it.
Ahmadinejad said the nuclear issue was ultimately between the United States and Iran, and must be resolved via talks.
"The nuclear issue is not a problem," he said. "But the approach of the United States on Iran is important. We are ready for dialogue, for a fundamental resolution of the problems, but under conditions that are based on fairness and mutual respect."
"We are not expecting a 33-year-old problem between the United States and Iran to be resolved in a speedy fashion," Ahmadinejad said. "But there is no other way besides dialogue."
Obama will underscore his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and address Muslim unrest related to an anti-Islamic video in his speech to General Assembly on Tuesday, the White House said.