Iran's refusal officially to recognise Israel's right to exist is a major obstacle to improved relations between Tehran and the West and has fuelled Israeli fears that the Islamic republic is bent on building a nuclear bomb. Yesterday's diatribe - the first such outburst in many years by an Iranian leader - will have done nothing to assuage fears.
Speaking to 4,000 radical students attending a conference entitled "The World Without Zionism", the President was greeted by chants of "Death to Israel".The former member of the fanatical Revolutionary Guards told his audience that "leaders of the Muslim nation who recognise Israel will burn in the flames of anger of their own people".
"The Islamic world will not let its historic enemy live in its heartland," he went on. Saying that he was voicing the opinion of Iran's late spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the new President went on to say that "Israel must be wiped off the map".
Foreign leaders condemned the remarks. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Sylvan Shalom, said they showed Iran was a "clear and present danger". A Foreign Office spokesman said "the sickening comment will only further heighten the concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions".Reuse content