LONDON (AP) – European governments on Thursday condemned the Iranian president”s call for Israel to be "wiped off the map," and Britain summoned a senior Iranian diplomat to the Foreign Office for a reprimand.
But the European Union stopped short of backing Israel”s call for Iran to be suspended from the United Nations over the remarks.
In a speech Wednesday, Iran”s conservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denounced Israel and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks "will wipe this stigma from the face of the Islamic world."
Citing the words of the founder of Iran”s Islamic revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Ahmadinejad said: "Israel must be wiped off the map."
Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres called for Iran to be expelled from the United Nations.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he condemned the Iranian statement "absolutely." Asked whether he believed Iran should be expelled from the U.N., Barroso said: "I will not make any concrete proposal now."
"It is a completely unacceptable statement, of course," Barroso told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "We should respect borders and respect the integrity of Israel, and we want Israel to live in peace with its neighbors."
Britain”s Foreign Office called Ahmadinejad”s comments "deeply disturbing and sickening," and said Iran”s charge d”affaires would be summoned later Thursday. Spain also summoned the Iranian ambassador in Madrid to protest the comments.
Italy said the remarks confirmed concerns over Tehran”s nuclear program.
The Italian Foreign Ministry said it had expressed "discomfort and concern to the Iranian ambassador in Rome."
"The contents and tone of such unacceptable statements confirm worries over the political positions pursued by the new Iranian leadership, especially concerning the nuclear dossier," the statement said.
Israel and the United States accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons and want the U.N. Security Council to consider sanctions against the Tehran government. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Ahmadinejad”s remarks "serve to underscore our concern as well as the international community”s concern about Iran”s pursuit of nuclear weapons."