Former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar said Tuesday that Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told him five years ago that "setting Israel on fire" was the first order of business on the Iranian agenda.

Aznar, in Israel as the guest of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, related the story to Major General (Res.) Professor Yitzhak Ben-Israel, who later confirmed to Haaretz that the remarks had been made.

Aznar's aides refused to give Haaretz the exact quote, but mentioned an article Aznar has written in the past on his meeting with Khamenei.

"He received me politely," Aznar wrote, "and at the beginning of the meeting he explained to me why Iran must declare war on Israel and the United States until they are completely destroyed. I made only one request of him: that he tell me the time of the planned attack."

Professor Ben-Israel, the former head of the Israel Defense Force's Weapon Systems Development Authority, is today No. 31 on Kadima's list of Knesset candidates.

Aznar was to deliver a lecture at the Interdisciplinary Center on Wednesday evening on "Dealing with the challenged of fundamental Islam and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Khamenei still holds the post of Iranian spiritual leader, and considered to be the powerful man in the country.