Iran confronts world anger

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki emphasised his country’s refusal to recognise Israel but steered clear of a call for the Jewish state to be annihilated that prompted the international outcry.

“In the eyes of the Islamic republic of Iran, the usurper Zionist regime is not legitimate … because it does not respect UN Security Council resolutions,” he told Muslim ambassadors to Iran.

“The usurper occupation regime prospers on the ruins and the exile of the rightful owners of the land,” he said, quoted by the state news agency IRNA, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr Mottaki recalled that Iran had from its early days after the 1979 Islamic revolution contested the legitimacy of the apartheid regime in South Africa and Israel at the United Nations.

Western countries outraged

Meanwhile British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the Iranian president’s call to eliminate Israel is “completely and totally unacceptable” and underscores the need to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“I have never come across a situation of the president of a country saying they want to … wipe out another country,” Mr Blair said at the close of a European Union summit outside London.

“Their attitude towards Israel, their attitude towards terrorism, their attitude on the nuclear weapons issue, it isn’t acceptable. … Can you imagine a state like that with an attitude like that having a nuclear weapon?”

He said the comments made him feel “revulsion.”

Israeli leaders yesterday said Iran should be expelled from the United Nations.

Mr Blair branded the Iranian president’s comments “a disgrace.”

“How are we going to build a more secure world with that type of attitude?” he said.

Mr Blair’s comments were echoed by governments across the world.
Britain, and others, summoned senior Iranian diplomats to express
their displeasure.

The 25 EU leaders meeting at Hampton Court palace said the threat would inevitably prompt fears about Tehran’s future intentions.

Relations between the EU and Iran had deteriorated over the past months after negotiations with Tehran failed to get Iran to drop parts of its nuclear program that could be used to make weapons.

The EU and the United States feared Iran aimed to use a civilian nuclear program to conceal weapons production. Iran said its nuclear program was only to generate power.

In a statement, UN chief Kofi Annan expressed dismay at the remarks.

Mr Annan reminded all member states that Israel was a long-standing UN member “with the same rights and obligations as every other member.”

“He recalls in particular that, under the United Nations Charter, all members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” the statement said.

Six months from the bomb

Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom has wanred Iran may be only six months from having the necessary means to make an atomic bomb and urged quick international action on Tehran’s nuclear program.

“The next meeting of the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) is a crucial meeting, because there is a limit of time until (Iran) will have a full knowledge of how to develop a nuclear bomb,” Shalom said after meeting with his French counterpart Philippe Douste-Blazy.

“It may only be six months from today,” he said.

“The Iranians are developing now missiles with much longer range than Israel,” Mr Shalom said.

The new missiles would have “a range of 3,000 kilometres that will include all the capitals of Europe within that range: Paris,
Berlin, London, Rome, Madrid… It’s a tyranny that should be stopped immediately,” he said.

The IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors in September, found Iran in non-compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, paving the way for the matter to be referred to the UN Security Council if Iran does not halt nuclear fuel work and cooperate fully with an IAEA investigation.

The matter is to be taken up at the next IAEA board meeting in Vienna on November 24.

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