- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 17, 2005

BRUSSELS — European Union leaders today condemned as “wholly unacceptable” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s latest outbursts against Israel and warned Tehran about its nuclear program.

“The European Council condemns unreservedly President Ahmadinejad’s call for the eradication of Israel and his denial of the Holocaust,” they said in conclusions agreed after a marathon summit dominated by a budget wrangle.

“The comments are wholly unacceptable and have no place in a civilized political debate,” they added.

The heavily ideological Iranian president aggravated tensions with the West this week by calling the Holocaust a “myth,” a statement that came two months after he called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

European leaders said Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks were the latest “provocative political moves” from Tehran since May.

“These comments are wholly unacceptable and have no place in civilized political debate,” said a draft statement at a European Union summit that EU leaders were expected to adopt later in the day.

EU leaders warned Tehran they would review diplomatic options for possible sanctions against Iran.

The condemnation came as Iran prepares to resume talks Wednesday with European envoys over its nuclear program, which the EU and United States fear is intended to build atomic weapons. Envoys from Britain, Germany and France are trying to get Tehran to halt uranium enrichment.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that Iran is interested in a deal that is going to be acceptable to an international community that is extremely skeptical of what the Iranians are up to,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Washington.

She predicted the United States would have enough votes at the U.N. Security Council to impose international sanctions on Iran but hinted she was waiting for other nations to join such an effort.

Meanwhile, Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments were “misunderstood” by the West.

Speaking on the sidelines of an Athens immigration conference, Mr. Pourmohammadi said: “Actually the case has been misunderstood. [Mr. Ahmadinejad] did not mean to raise this matter.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad “wanted to say that if others harmed the Jewish community and created problems for the Jewish community, they have to pay the price themselves. People like the Palestinian people or other nations should not pay the price [for it].”

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments Wednesday drew quick condemnations from Israel, the United States and Europe, which warned he is hurting Iran’s position in talks aimed at resolving suspicions about his regime’s nuclear program.

In October, he provoked an international outcry by calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

Inside Iran, moderates have called on the Islamic cleric-led regime to rein in the president. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s election in June sealed the long decline of Iran’s reform movement, which had largely dropped the harsh anti-Israeli and anti-U.S. rhetoric of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and sought to establish international ties.



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