MOSCOW (AP)- The Iranian Embassy in Moscow tried Friday to soften the impact of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad”s comment that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
"Mr. Ahmadinejad did not have any intention to speak in sharp terms and engage in a conflict," the Iranian Embassy in Moscow said in a statement.
It added that Ahmadinejad "underlined the key position of Iran, based on the necessity to hold free elections on the occupied territories."
The embassy statement came after Moscow, a key ally of Iran, joined global criticism of Ahmadinejad”s statement and summoned the Iranian ambassador to ask for an explanation.
In a speech in Tehran Wednesday, Ahmadinejad said, "There is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will wipe off this stigma (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world."
The embassy said the president wanted to emphasize the Palestinians” rights, and said that tensions in the region were rooted in "injustice, when one group of people in that land is enjoying all civil rights while others don”t even have minimal rights and subsistence means."
It said that Ahmadinejad called for the return of Palestinian refugees and free elections. "As a result of these elections, the existence of a regime based on just one ethnic group will be impossible in the land where Jews, Muslims and Christians live," the embassy said.
"We value the civilization and don”t believe that in the 21st century we must support the creation of governments based on ethnic origin," it said.
In Iran on Friday, tens of thousands of people staged anti-Israel protests across the country, and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said late Thursday that the massive demonstrations would illustrate the anger of the Islamic world over the Jewish state”s existence.
"The comments expressed by the president is the declared and specific policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Mottaki told state-run television Thursday. "We don”t recognize the Zionist regime and don”t consider it legitimate."
While trying to downplay Ahmadinejad”s comments, the embassy statement blamed "Zionist circles" for fanning anti-Iranian sentiments because of Iran”s nuclear program.
Russia”s Foreign Ministry said that it told Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari on Thursday that Ahmadinejad”s remarks were dangerous "in such an explosive region as the Middle East."
It urged Tehran to "realize the danger of the confrontational statements and show political foresight and pragmatism" and added that Moscow expected an Iranian response to the ministry”s remarks.
Russia”s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said Thursday that the Iranian president”s statement gave "additional arguments" to those countries that want to bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council over its disputed nuclear program, which the United States and others believe is intended as a cover for nuclear weapons development.
Russia has resisted efforts to bring Iran before the Security Council, insisting that the disputes around Tehran”s nuclear program be resolved through the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency. Russia is building a nuclear reactor in the Iranian city of Bushehr that is to be launched by the end of next year.