Ahmadinejad says Israel won't survive

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The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Jewish state would not survive in any form.

He also dismissed allegations that his country is trying to make nuclear arms.

Speaking to reporters in Tehran, the hard-line leader smirked at a former mantra of the Israeli right of a "Greater" Israel that would include occupied Palestinian territories. The idea has since been abandoned, with the Israeli political consensus now being that there would be a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"I have heard some say the idea of Greater Israel has expired," Ahmadinejad said. "I say that the idea of lesser Israel has expired, too."

The press conference was an opportunity for Ahmadinejad to speak to the media at length before traveling to New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

The Iranian president repeated his previous anti-Israel comments, calling the Holocaust by Nazi Germany during World War II a "fake" and saying that Israel is perpetrating a holocaust on the Palestinian people.

The remarks appear to be part of Ahmadinejad's effort to deflect growing criticism at home over failed economic policies and recent comments by some close associates. Iran's inflation hit 27.6 percent last month, while Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashai was recently quoted as saying Iranians were "friends of all people in the world — even Israelis."

Ahmadinejad, known for virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric, said in 2005 that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and later called the Holocaust a "myth." Most recently, he described the Jewish state as a "germ of corruption."

Speaking about Iran's controversial nuclear program, Ahmadinejad claimed the UN nuclear watchdog agency has "no right" to consider US-provided documents that allege Tehran sought to make an atomic bomb.

Ahmadinejad said regulations under which the International Atomic Energy Agency operates do not "allow it to act on claims by any government." On Monday, an IAEA report said Iran had blocked a UN investigation into allegations it tried to make nuclear arms and that the inquiry was deadlocked.

Ahmadinejad said the report "verified the peaceful nature" of Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is only for electricity production, and urged the West to end its hostile policy toward Iran.

Iran is already under three sets of sanctions by the U.N Security Council over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Ahmadinejad on Thursday insisted the enrichment will not be stopped.

"Let them put sanctions on us," Ahmadinejad said. "We are a very strong nation."

The United States and its allies are expected to press the UN for a new round of sanctions after Iran refused to accept a recent package of economic and technological incentives in return for suspending enrichment.

Iran denies claims by the U.S. and its allies of seeking to build a nuclear weapon, and persists that it has the right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to develop reactor fuel using enrichment.

The Bush administration supports a diplomatic solution to Iran's controversial nuclear program, but has not ruled out a military option.

Ahmadinejad said that many around the world would come to Iran's defense in case of a U.S. strike on Iran.

"From Japan and Southern America, to inside the United States, there are many volunteers that are ready to defend (Iran) if the US wants to offend the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said.