Iran's Ahmadinejad: Israel at 'dead end'
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NEW YORK -- On what is expected to be his last visit to the United States as Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday offered an expansive view of his nation's place in history while dismissing Israel's long-term viability as a state and its threat to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.
Mr. Ahmadinejad ignored an admonition by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to avoid incendiary remarks while in New York for the the U.N. General Assembly opening, lashing out at Israel during breakfast with journalists at the Warwick Hotel.
Israel, he said, requires an external conflict because "they have found themselves at a dead end, and they are seeking new adventures in order to escape this dead end. Iran will not be damaged by foreign bombs."
Mr. Ahmadinejad, who has nine months left in his second and final term as president of the Islamic republic, was referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's warnings that Israel would use force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, an effort Tehran denies it is pursuing. "Fundamentally, we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists," he said. "We have all the defensive means at our disposal, and we are ready to defend ourselves."
The United States and its European allies charge that Iran is using what it says is a civilian program as cover to develop the capacity to build nuclear warheads. They have been joined by Russia and China in slapping four rounds of U.N. sanctions on Tehran. They also have imposed their own harsher measures to force Iran to stop enriching uranium and disclose full details of the program concealed from U.N. inspectors for 18 years.
President Barack Obama, disagreeing with Israeli assessments of how soon Iran could produce a nuclear weapon, says there is more time for diplomacy. But he has reserved the option of striking Iranian nuclear facilities if negotiations, which have all but stalled, should fail.
Mr. Ahmadinejad went beyond discounting Israel's threat to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, dismissing as well the Jewish state's long-term viability in the Middle East. "They [Israelis] have been occupying those territories for the last 60 to 70 years, with the support and force of the Westerners. They have no roots in history," he said, referring to modern Israel's founding in 1948.
"We don't even count them as part of any equation for Iran. During this historical phase, they represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated," he said, ignoring the close relations that Israel and Iran maintained until the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In making his remarks, Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is to address the General Assembly on Wednesday, ignored a warning Sunday by Mr. Ban. "The secretary-general drew attention to the potentially harmful consequences of inflammatory rhetoric, counter-rhetoric and threats from various countries in the Middle East," said a U.N. statement issued after the two men met Sunday.
The statement said Mr. Ban also asked Mr. Ahmadinejad to "take the measures necessary to build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program."
Asked to comment on the Iranian leader's remarks, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: "President Ahmadinejad says foolish, offensive and sometimes unintelligible things with great regularity. What he should focus on is the failure of his government of Iran to abide by its international obligations, to abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions."
He added: "Thus far, Iran has failed to do that, and so the pressure will continue. And let me be very clear, as the president has been, every option available -- and that includes a military option -- remains on the table when it comes to keeping the president's commitment to Iran not acquiring a nuclear weapon."
First Published September 25, 2012 12:00 am