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Iranian President's remarks on Israel stir hornet's nest

By Harinder Mishra in Jerusalem
December 09, 2005 12:28 IST
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A remark by the Iranian President that Israel should be moved to Europe has caused a storm of protest from across the world. Israel has said the comments defied international law, which recognises its right to exist, and amounted to a denial of Holocaust.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks on Thursday that Israel should be moved to Europe so that the West can make amends for the Holocaust, the persecution of Jews by Hitler's Nazi Germany, also led Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to call for referral of Tehran's nuclear issue to the United Nations Security Council.

Shalom said the comments reflect a 'clear denial' of Holocaust and defies international law recognising Israel's right to exist. The international community should spare no effort to 'prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons', he said, adding, 'Europe and Russia have to join the United States in endorsing Iran's referral to the Security Council'.

Under the leadership of Ahmadinejad, Iran will seek all means to destroy the State of Israel, he claimed.

In an interview to Iran's Arabic channel Al-Alam, Ahmadinejad said that if Germany and Austria feel responsible for massacring Jews during World War II, they should host a state of Israel on their own soil.

Describing the remarks as 'clearly appalling and reprehensible', US State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said, "They certainly don't inspire hope among any of us in the international community that the government of Iran is prepared to engage as a responsible member of that community."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said it just underscored 'our concerns' about the Iranian regime and 'it's all the more reason why it's so important that the regime not have the ability to develop nuclear weapons'.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at a press conference with French President Jaques Chirac said, "With our historical responsibility in mind, I can only say that we reject Ahmadinejad's comments in the harshest possible terms."

"We will do everything to make it clear that Israel's right to existence is in no way endangered. I am firmly convinced that a majority in the international community has a similar opinion on this issue," she said.

Condeming the remarks 'unreservedly', British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "They have no place in civilised political debate."

Ahmadinejad was quoted by IRNA news agency as saying that 'some European countries' insist Hitler killed millions of Jews in furnaces 'and they insist on it to the extent that if anyone proves something contrary to that they condemn that person and throw them in jail'.

'Although we don't accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, our question for the Europeans is if the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler is the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem', it quoted him as saying.

"Just to remind Mr. Ahmadinejad, we've been here long before his ancestors. Therefore, we have a birthright to be here in the land of our forefathers and to live here. Thank God we have the capability to deter and to prevent such a statement from becoming a reality," Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's adviser Ra'anan Gissin said.

He claimed Ahmadinejad was voicing 'the consensus that exists in many circles in the Arab world that the Jewish not have the right to establish a Jewish state in their ancestral homeland'.

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Harinder Mishra in Jerusalem
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