Several world capitals, including Washington, are condemning Iran's leader for saying the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map."During a meeting with protesting students at the Interior Ministry, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quoted a remark from Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, who said that Israel "must be wiped out from the map of the world.
The president then said: "And God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism," according to a quote published by IRNA.
The remarks by Ahmadinejad coincide with a month-long protest against Israel called "World without Zionism" and with the approach of Jerusalem Day.
Reaction to the remarks was swift.
"I think we are starting to see some true views of this regime, which underscores our concern and the international community's concerns about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said of Ahmadinejad's views.
Ottawa also reacted to the comments with a strong rebuke, which reflected Washington's concerns on the nuclear issue.
"We cannot tolerate comments of such hatred, such anti-Semitism, such intolerance. These comments are all the more troubling given that we know of Iran's nuclear ambitions," Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said.
London, through its British Foreign Office, stated that the Iranian leader's comments were "deeply disturbing and sickening."
Israel reacted strongly by calling for U.N. action against Iran. "Iran is no longer just a threat to Israel. Iran is a global threat, and the international community must act against the leader of a country who calls for the destruction of another member state of the United Nations," Israel's ambassador to the U.N. Dan Gillerman said.
Israel's Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres took the issue further, saying Iran should be expelled from the United Nations, according to Reuters.
Ahmadinejad's comments prompted the French foreign minister to summon the Iranian ambassador to Paris for an explanation. France is one of the European countries that has been involved in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said he learned about Ahmadinejad's comments from news reports that indicate the Iranian president called for Israel's destruction and said the conflict in the Middle East would result in a fight between Jews and Muslims.
"If these comments are correct, they are unacceptable. I greatly condemn them and have asked for the Iranian ambassador in Paris to be summoned to the Foreign Ministry to demand explanations," Douste-Blazy said.
"For France, the right for Israel to exist should not be contested. This state was created by a decision of the U.N. General Assembly. International law applies to all. The question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be used as a pretext to put into question the fundamental right for Israel to exist."
Israel has diplomatic relations with major Muslim countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, and the Gaza disengagement has improved ties between Israel and some other Muslim nations and leaders. But Ahmadinejad said the "new wave of confrontations generated in Palestine and the growing turmoil in the Islamic world would in no time wipe Israel away," according to paraphrased statements in the IRNA report.
He also described Israel's disengagement from Gaza as a "trick" meant to make "Islamic states acknowledge the Zionist regime of Israel," reports CNN. I.L.