Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a new verbal assault on Israel, denounced it on Saturday as the "flag of Satan" and said it may be facing disintegration, official media reported.

Ahmadinejad, who triggered outrage in the West two years ago when he said Israel should be "wiped off the map", has often referred to its destruction but says Iran is not a threat.

Two months ago, he said the Lebanese and the Palestinians had pressed a "countdown button" to bring an end to the state of Israel.

On Saturday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying of Israel in a speech: "When the philosophy of the establishment and the continuation of this regime is not just, it is not unlikely that it is on the path of decline and disintegration."

Accusing Israel of "occupation and aggression", he added: "This regime is the flag of Satan".

It was not clear whether his choice of words was an indirect reference to Israel's close ally the United States, which Iran's clerical leaders have branded "the Great Satan."

Iran often praises the Palestinians for what it says is their resistance to Israeli occupation. Tehran also described the Second Lebanon War last summer between Hezbollah and Israel as a victory for the Iranian-backed group.

Ahmadinejad's comments in 2005 caused consternation in Israel and the West, which also fear Iran is trying to build an atomic arsenal under cover of a civilian nuclear power program, a charge Tehran denies.

While Ahmadinejad has said Iran is not a threat to Israel, Iranian officials have said Tehran would respond swiftly to any Israeli attack. Some analysts have speculated Israel may try to knock out Iran's atomic sites.