Iranian president says Israel cannot continue to exist

By The Associated Press

Haaretz

Nisan 27, 5766

In wide-ranging remarks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that Israel was an artificial state that could not continue to exist.

"Some 60 years has passed since the end of World War II, why should the people of Germany and Palestine pay now for a war in which the current generation was not involved," Ahmadinejad told a press conference.

"We say that this fake regime cannot not logically continue to live," he said.

The Iranian president has long campaigned against Israel, saying last October that Israel should be "wiped off the map." He has said Europe should find a home for Israelis, who should not live on Palestinian land.

"Open the doors [of Europe] and let the Jews go back to their own countries," the president said Monday.

He added that Europeans should jettison their "anti-semitism" to enable Israelis to "return" to their continent, and "allow Palestinians to decide their own fate and live freely."

Ahmadinejad also hinted that Iran would consider withdrawing from the United Nations nuclear agency if membership produced no benefit.

"What has more than 30 years of membership in the agency given us?" he asked rhetorically at a press conference.

"Working in the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the agency is our concrete policy," he added. "(But) if we see that they are violating our rights, or they don't want to accept (our rights), well, we will revise."

The UN body, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has accused Iran of failing to answer all questions about its nuclear program and reported the country to the Security Council for non-compliance with its demands.

The Security Council has given Iran until Friday to suspend enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors material for nuclear warheads. Iran has rejected the demand, arguing it is entitled to the peaceful use of enrichment as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Ahmadinejad often gives long, rambling speeches but Monday was one of the rare occasions when he allowed foreign journalists to question him. He seemed to enjoy the encounter, making jokes and putting questions to the reporters.