- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2005

LONDON — Governments around the world expressed shock and scorn yesterday at the Iranian president’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” and several summoned Tehran’s envoys in their capitals for a reprimand.

The European Union said the call by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raised concerns about the aims of a country the West suspects is trying to build an atomic bomb.

In a speech Wednesday, Mr. Ahmadinejad denounced Israel and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks “will wipe this stigma from the face of the Islamic world.” Citing the words of the founder of Iran’s Islamic revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mr. Ahmadinejad said: “Israel must be wiped off the map.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday called for Iran to be expelled from the United Nations, saying, “A state which calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member of the United Nations.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel had not decided whether to ask officially for Iran’s removal.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Mr. Ahmadinejad’s declaration was “completely and totally unacceptable” and underscored the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“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.

Mr. Blair, speaking at the close of a European Union summit outside London, said the comments made him feel “revulsion.”

Relations between the EU and Iran have deteriorated in recent months after negotiations with Tehran failed to get Iran to drop its nuclear program, which the EU and the United States suspect is being used to build weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

The 25 European Union leaders at the summit also condemned the remarks, saying they “will cause concern about Iran’s role in the region and its future intentions.”

Australian Prime Minister John Howard called Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks “dangerous” and said they required a U.N. response, although he wasn’t specific.

Newspapers across the Middle East, meanwhile, reported the speech without comment, many of them on their front pages.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry and Cabinet officials said Cairo would have nothing to say about the address. Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher also declined comment.

France, Russia, Spain and the Netherlands summoned the Iranian ambassadors in their capitals to explain the remarks. And the German and Austrian foreign ministries called in Iranian diplomatic representatives.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, visiting Israel, criticized the Iranian leader. “I don’t agree that anyone should challenge the right of any U.N. member to exist; this is indeed inadmissible,” Mr. Lavrov said.

But on Wednesday, he brushed off Israel’s calls for Security Council action, saying the matter is “too serious to be guided by politics.”

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