Tens of thousands of Iranians staged anti-Israel protests across the country Friday and repeated calls by their ultraconservative president demanding the Jewish state's destruction. World leaders have condemned remarks made Wednesday by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who repeated the words of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, by saying: "Israel must be wiped off the map."
Iranians staged multiple protests in the capital, Tehran, and other cities such as Mashad in Iran's east, holding banners carrying anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian slogans. "Death to Israel, death to America," read many placards.
The demonstrations are being held as part of annual al-Quds, Jerusalem, Day protests, which were first held in 1979 after Shiite Muslim clerics took power in Iran.
The state-organized rallies are expected to grow throughout the day ahead of midday prayer mosque sermons across Iran. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have attended previous protests.
Late Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said 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. "We don't recognize the Zionist regime and don't consider it legitimate."
Countries from Britain and Russia denounced Ahmadinejad's comments. The United States said the Iranian leader's hostile underscored Washington's concern over Iran's nuclear program. Israel said the Persian state should be suspended from the United Nations.
Iran's seven state-run TV stations devoted coverage Friday to programs condemning the Jewish state and praising the Palestinian resistance since the 1948 creation of Israel, the AP reports.
Three stations also showed live coverage of crowds of people gathering early Friday in streets throughout Tehran. One man appearing to be aged in his 30s carried a placard saying: "The late Khomeini said Israel should be wiped off the map."
After Khomeini toppled the pro-Western Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1979, he declared the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as an international day of struggle against Israel and for the liberation of Jerusalem.
The Iranian government organizes a central demonstration annually in Tehran, while other rallies demanding Israel's destruction are held around the world. Lebanon's Hezbollah is expected to stage a mass military parade in Beirut on Friday.