TEHRAN, Oct. 26 – Iran’s new hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told a group of students at an anti-Israel event today that Israel must be “wiped off the map” and that attacks by Palestinians will destroy it, the Iranian student news agency, ISNA, reported.
He was speaking to an audience of about 4,000 student at a program called The World without Zionism, in preparation for an annual anti-Israel demonstration held on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.
His tone was reminiscent of that of the early days of Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979. Iran and Israel have been bitter enemies since then, and anti-Israel slogans are common at rallies.
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Senior officials had avoided provocative language over the past decade, but Mr. Ahmadinejad appears to be taking a more confrontational tone.
He said in his remarks today that the issue of a Palestinian state would be resolved only when Palestinians took control of all their lands.
“The establishment of Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said, the news agency reported. “The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of the war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land.”
Referring to comments by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution, Mr. Admadinejad said, “As the imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map.”
The remarks brought swift reaction in Israel and in some Western capitals.
Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Mr. Ahmadinejad and the Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, “speak openly about destroying the Jewish state … and it appears the problem with these extremists is that they followed through on their violent declarations with violent actions,” The Associated Press reported.
“I think it reconfirms what we have been saying about the regime in Iran,” the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, told reporters in Washington. according to The A.P. “It underscores the concerns we have about Iran’s nuclear intentions.”
France’s foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, learning of Mr. Admadinejad’s comments, said “I condemn them very forcefully,” adding that he will summon Iran’s ambassador to Paris to ask for an explanation, Agence France-Presse reported.
The tone of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, had differed markedly, with Mr. Khatami proposing a dialogue among civilizations and pursuing a policy of de’tente.
At the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April, Mr. Khatami was seated close to the Israeli president, Moshe Katsav, who said he shook hands with Mr. Khatami and chatted briefly. Mr. Katsav was born in the Iranian city of Yazd, which is Mr. Khatami’s home town, and speaks fluent Persian.
However, despite media photos that showed the two men standing next to one another, Mr. Khatami denied the account of the encounter after he returned to Iran.
Mr. Ahmadinejad also called Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip a trick, and said Gaza is part of Palestinian territories and the withdrawal was aimed at convincing the Islamic states to acknowledge Israel.
“Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. Any Islamic leader “who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world.”