World dismay over Iranian remarks

LONDON (AP) — Governments around the world expressed shock and scorn Thursday at the Iranian president’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” and several summoned Tehran’s envoys in their capitals for a reprimand.
However, Israeli calls for Iran to be suspended from the United Nations over the remarks by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were not immediately taken up by other nations.

In a speech Wednesday, Ahmadinejad denounced Israel and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks “will wipe this stigma from the face of the Islamic world.” Citing the words of the founder of Iran’s Islamic revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Ahmadinejad said: “Israel must be wiped off the map.” “These sentiments are completely and totally unacceptable,” British Prime Minister Tony Blair said after chairing a one-day meeting of EU leaders. “I felt a real sense of revulsion at those remarks.” Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres called for Iran to be expelled from the United Nations. Israel had not decided whether to ask officially for Iran’s removal from the world body, foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

“This is a clear contravention and breach of the UN Charter and it should be dealt with by the international community,” Israel’s deputy ambassador to Britain, Zvi Rav-Ner, told British Broadcasting Corp. Radio.

The 25 EU leaders, meeting at Hampton Court Palace near London, condemned the remarks, saying they “will cause concern about Iran’s role in the region and its future intentions.” Britain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, summoned a senior Iranian diplomat to the Foreign Office for a reprimand.

Relations between the EU and Iran have recently deteriorated after negotiations failed to get Iran to drop parts of its nuclear programme that could be used to make weapons. The EU and the United States fear Iran aims to use a civilian nuclear programme to conceal weapons production.

Iran says its nuclear programme is only to generate power.

The EU and US government are keen to bring the issue to the UN Security Council.

“If correctly reported, this position is unacceptable,” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said of Ahmadinejad’s statement. However, the EU stopped short of calling for a UN suspension for Iran.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he condemned the Iranian statement “absolutely.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on a visit to Israel, criticised the Iranian leader. “I don’t agree that anyone should challenge the right of any UN member to exist,” Lavrov said.

But on Wednesday he brushed off Israel’s calls for Security Council action, saying the matter is “too serious to be guided by politics.” France, Spain and the Netherlands summoned the Iranian ambassadors in their capitals to explain the remarks.

French foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said Iranian Ambassador Sadegh Kharrazi “was reminded that the right of Israel to exist cannot be contested.” Russia’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Iran’s ambassador to Russia Thursday for an explanation. The ministry said that the ambassador was told that Ahmadinejad’s remarks were dangerous “in such [an] explosive region as the Middle East.”

The German foreign ministry also called in a representative of the Iranian Embassy to protest the comments, while Italy said the remarks confirmed concerns over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said he was “shocked and saddened” by the remarks.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew condemned the comments in a strongly-worded statement.

“Canada will never accept such hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism. Never,” the statement said.

The Czech Republic’s foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that it condemned Ahmadinejad’s “uncivilised” threat that jeopardized the stability of the Middle East.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Ahmadinejad’s remarks “serve to underscore our concern as well as the international community’s concern about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

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