Ahmadinejad's Call to Destroy Israel Draws French Condemnation

Iran president tells leaders of Muslim states that solution to crisis is to destroy Israel; France: Shows Iran cannot be stabilizing force.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday the solution to the Middle East crisis was to destroy Israel, Iranian state media reported.

In a speech during an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Malaysia, Ahmadinejad also called for an immediate cease-fire to end the fighting between Israel and the Iranian-back group Hezbollah.

"Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented," Ahmadinejad said, according to state-run television in a report posted on its Web site.

France's foreign minister condemned Ahmadinehjad's comments Thursday, saying Iran is ruining its chances to play a positive and stabilizing role in the Middle East.

"I totally condemn these words," Philippe Douste-Blazy said on France-Inter radio, saying they were "absolutely unacceptable on anyone's part, especially from a head of state."

The crisis had presented an opportunity for Iran to "show that it can play a positive and stabilizing role in the region," Douste-Blazy said, adding that Ahmadinejad's statement "confirmed that this is not the case."

In a meeting with Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov "emphasized the need for all interested parties to take efforts to find a solution that would allow to put an end to fighting and violence in the region and stage the ground for establishing a stable peace."

"Iran could also contribute to the efforts," the Foreign Ministry quoted Saltanov as saying.

Jordanian king: IDF offensive turning Hezbollah into herosJordan's King Abdullah, a staunch pro-U.S. ally, said on Thursday that Israel's offensive against Hezbollah had turned its fighters into heroes among ordinary Arabs.

In the toughest rebuke against his peace partner Israel in recent years, the monarch said the rise of guerrilla groups such as Hezbollah who targeted the Israel stemmed from Israel's reluctance to give up Arab territory captured in the 1967 Six-Day War in return for lasting peace.

"They [Israelis] want to destroy Hezbollah by tanks and air force. Peace comes by returning occupied territory and setting up a Palestinian state," he said.

"The war will not solve anything and Arab peoples see now in Hezbollah a hero facing aggression and defending their land," Abdullah said. "Ok, if you [Israel] destroy Hizbollah and, let's say, after a year or two there is no solution to the Palestinian cause or Lebanon or Syria .. then a new Hezbollah would emerge, maybe in Jordan, Syria or Egypt .. Israel should know this."

"A fact America and Israel must understand is that as long as there is aggression and occupation there will be resistance and popular support for the resistance," the monarch said.

Muslim nations call for immediate ceasefire in LebanonThe Islamic world's biggest bloc on Thursday demanded that the United Nations implement an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon and investigate what it called flagrant human rights violations by Israel.

Leaders of key countries in the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, including Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey, voiced strong support for the Lebanese people "in their legitimate and courageous resistance against the Israeli aggression."

"We demand that the United Nations Security Council fulfill its responsibility ... by deciding on and enforcing an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire," the OIC said at an emergency summit. The declaration also called for a UN investigation into Israel's acts.

"We hold Israel responsible for the loss of lives and suffering ... and demand that Israel compensate (Lebanon) and its people for the losses sustained resulting from Israeli aggression," the leaders said.

Malaysia, which chairs the OIC, rallied presidents, prime ministers and policy-makers of 17 Muslim-majority nations for one-day talks to articulate their opposition to Israel's attacks in Lebanese and Palestinian territories.

"This war must stop, or it will radicalize the Muslim world, even those of us who are moderate today," said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who leads the world's most populous Muslim country.

"From there, it will be just one step away to that ultimate nightmare: a clash of civilizations," he added.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called for a UN-backed force to stabilize the Israeli-Lebanon border.

Muslims "must show preparedness to contribute forces for peacekeeping operations under the United Nations banner," Abdullah told the conference.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said hostilities must be halted "before the spiraling violence engulfs the entire region and kills the hope for a durable and just peace in the Middle East."

Lebanon's Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said his country's "sole request is a comprehensive cease-fire."

Other top figures assembled included President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, as well as leaders of Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brunei and Turkey. Foreign ministers and senior officials represented Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Senegal, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, as well as the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

About 100 Malaysian Muslim activists chanted anti-Israeli slogans outside the summit venue.

Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas controlling southern Lebanon have been locked in fierce fighting for three weeks, resulting in hundreds of Lebanese civilian casualties.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, addressing the conference in a video statement, said Israel's offensive "is taking an enormous toll on human life and infrastructure, and has totally ravaged our country and shattered our economy."

"Over 900 (have been) killed and 3,000 injured so far, one third of the casualties are children under 12," he said.