TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday Europe was stirring up hatred in the Middle East by supporting Israel and warned it “may get hurt” if anger in the region boiled over.
“You should believe that this regime (Israel) cannot last and has no more benefit to you. What benefit have you got in supporting this regime, except the hatred of the nations?” he said in a speech broadcast on state radio.
“We have advised the Europeans that the Americans are far away, but you are the neighbours of the nations in this region. We inform you that the nations are like an ocean that is welling up, and if a storm begins, the dimensions will not stay limited to Palestine, and you may get hurt.”
Ahmadinejad caused outrage in the West last year by calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, echoing comments by the Islamic Republic’s late founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
He has not since repeated that phrase but regularly launches verbal attacks on Israel, whose right to exist Iran has not recognised since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“Today, with the grace of God, the efforts to establish this fake regime have failed totally,” he said in Friday’s speech to mark Qods Day (Jerusalem Day) when Iranians are officially encouraged to demonstrate in support of the Palestinians.
Iran is accused by the West of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. It insists it wants nuclear power only to generate electricity. Ahmadinejad said in August Iran was not a threat to any country, “not even to the Zionist regime”.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in response to Ahmadinejad’s speech: “Unfortunately these remarks do not come as a surprise. They are consistent with what Mr Ahmadinejad has said for some time… “It’s why we take the issue of Iran in general so seriously and the possibility of it acquiring nuclear weaponry so seriously and why the prime minister believes the world must be as united in its message to Iran as it has been in its message to North Korea.
“That is why we will continue to push for and work towards a U.N. resolution (on sanctions against Iran) in New York.”
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a statement: “I condemn the unacceptable comments made today by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which he again calls into question the existence of the state of Israel.”
Iranian state television showed crowds on Friday waving banners with pictures of Khomeini and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.
Iran described Israel’s July war with Lebanon as a victory for Hezbollah. “The false myth (of Israel being invincible) has fallen by the will of the Palestinian youth and the faithful warriors of Hezbollah,” Ahmadinejad said.
The president has drawn condemnation from the West and Israel by describing the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, as a “myth”. This is another phrase he has not repeated, but he regularly questions the Holocaust.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in May Iran’s leaders had turned Israel “into a target for annihilation”. Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said in April Iran’s nuclear programme was the biggest threat to Jews since the Holocaust.