Israel to launch a "diplomatic offensive”

Israel says it will launch a "diplomatic offensive" following calls by the president of Iran for the Jewish state to be obliterated. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel would call for a special session of the United Nations Security Council. He spoke a day after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tehran should be expelled from the UN for its attitude.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday stood by his calls for Israel to be "wiped off the map". Mr Shalom told Israel Radio: "We have decided to open a broad diplomatic offensive.

I have called on my counterparts through the world not to turn a blind eye and to stop once and for all the Iranian games." Mr Shalom spoke as thousands of Iranian demonstrators took to the streets for an annual day of protest against Zionism and the state of Israel.

Mr Ahmadinejad, during a brief appearance at the rally, backed his comments, saying that opposition to the existence of Israel had been official state policy since the Islamic revolution of 1979. "My words were the Iranian nation's words," he told the official Irna news agency.

His initial comment, at a conference in Tehran, prompted Israel's call for the UN to expel Iran and sparked widespread condemnation. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "dismayed" by the Iranian leader's comments. Western states reacted angrily, and Russia suggested the affair would deepen the row over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The White House said the Iranian remark showed the US was right to be concerned about Iran's nuclear programme. EU leaders meeting in London issued a joint condemnation "in the strongest terms" following statements of concern from individual members of the 25-state body.

Iran later accused the West of turning a blind eye tIsraeli "crimes", reports BBC news. I.L.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team