Israeli ambassador to UN asks world body to expel Iran
UN head Annan expresses 'dismay' over Iranian president's call for Israel to be 'wiped off the map.'
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Gillerman, on Thursday asked the rotating president of the UN Security Council to expel Iran from the world body in response to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call Wednesday for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
Gillerman wrote in a letter that Ahmadinejad's comments require a strong and decisive response from the international community, Israel Radio reported. He said no country that calls for violence and destruction should be allowed membership in the UN.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed "dismay" Thursday over the comments, saying the UN charter is opposed to threats or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state.
"Israel is a long-standing member of the United Nations with the same rights and obligations as every other member," Annan said in a statement.
He said he plans to visit Iran in "the next few weeks" and would put the Middle East peace process and the right of all states to live in peace and security within secure borders at the top of his agenda.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Vice Premier Shimon Peres initiated the calls for Iran's expulsion from the UN.
"The prime minister said that a state which calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member of the United Nations," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.
"I don't see such a crazy declaration being done by a head of state, a member of the United Nations; it is unbearable," Peres told a news conference. "[Ahmadinejad] cannot remain a member."
Israel's deputy ambassador to Britain, Zvi Rav-Ner, said it was unheard of for a UN member state to call "for genocide and wiping off of another member state of the UN."
"This is a clear contravention and breach of the UN charter and it should be dealt with by the international community," he told BBC radio.
The comments came amid widespread condemnation by European leaders, the United States, Canada, Australia and the Palestinian Authority.
EU rejects calls for violenceEU leaders said no country that claimed to be a responsible member of the international community could make such a call.
"EU leaders ... today condemned in the strongest terms the comments in respect of the State of Israel attributed to President Ahmadinejad of Iran," EU leaders said in a statement issued at a one-day summit outside London.
"Calls for violence, and for the destruction of any state, are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community," they said.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he condemned the Iranian statement "absolutely." Asked whether he believed Iran should be expelled from the UN, Barroso said: "I will not make any concrete proposal now."
"It is a completely unacceptable statement, of course," Barroso told BBC radio. "We should respect borders and respect the integrity of Israel, and we want Israel to live in peace with its neighbors."
Erekat: Comments not acceptableAlthough most Arab leaders maintained silence Thursday over Ahmadinejad's statements, senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday said the comments were not acceptable.
"This is unacceptable to us," Erekat said. "We have recognized the State of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and ... we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran. This is unacceptable."
Analysts said Tehran's Arab rivals may quietly be pleased to see the radical regime further isolated by its extremism.
Newspapers across the Middle East reported Wednesday's speech without comment, many of them on their front pages.
Ahmadinejad's comments on Israel, which he made at a conference called "The World without Zionism," were originally reported by the official Iranian news agency Wednesday.
Ahmadinejad said a new wave of Palestinian attacks would destroy Israel, and he denounced attempts to recognize Israel or normalize relations with it, the media reports said. He also repeated the words of the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called for the destruction of Israel.
"As the imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has refused to recognize Israel's right to exist, and supports Palestinian militant groups such as Islamic Jihad, the group behind a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis Wednesday.
Russian FM to Sharon: Iranian envoy must explainRussian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who is in Israel for meetings with officials, told Sharon on Thursday that Ahmadinejad's comments are unacceptable to Russia and that the Iranian ambassador to Moscow has been asked to provide an explanation.
"I don't agree that anyone should challenge the right of any UN member to exist," he said earlier in the day. "This is indeed inadmissible."
"I think this does not add to efforts of those who are trying to normalize the situation around Iran," said Lavrov. "Those who insist on transfering the Iranian nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council received an additional argument to do so."
Austria "resolutely rejects" Ahmadinejad's comments, said Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik. Plassnik said her ministry had summoned the Iranian envoy in Vienna for discussions about the matter.
Catholic Action of Austria, a leading Austrian Roman Catholic layman's organization, said in a statement Thursday that it was the responsibility of all Christian believers to defend Israel's right to exist, and it deplored Ahmadinejad's hostility as "intolerable."
"This murderous call from Tehran must not stand without international consequences," the organization said.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday he has "never come across a situation of the president of a country saying they want to ... wipe out another country." He said the comments made him feel "revulsion."
"Their attitude towards Israel, their attitude towards terrorism, their attitude on the nuclear weapons issue, it isn't acceptable, he said at the close of a EU summit outside London. "Can you imagine a state like that with an attitude like that having a nuclear weapon?"
French officials on Thursday told Iran's ambassador to Paris that Israel's right to exist "cannot be contested," condemning the Iranian president's call for the destruction of Israel.
The Iranian ambassador to France, Sadegh Kharrazi, was summoned to the French Foreign Ministry on Thursday morning and asked for "clarifications" of the remarks by Ahmadinejad.
The ambassador "was reminded that the right of Israel to exist cannot be contested. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot serve as a pretext for calling into question this fundamental right," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said. "The ambassador took note of this demarche and indicated that he would report it to his authorities."
Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos summoned Iran's ambassador to protest Ahmadinejad's comments.
White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said the incident "underscores the concerns we have about Iran's nuclear intentions."
"Of course, we are opposed to Iranian policies with regard to Israel, we are opposed with regard to the nuclear policy, with regard to their support of terror, with regard to their negative policies in Iraq," the Voice of America quoted the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmy Khalilzad, as saying.
Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, said he wanted to "vigorously condemn the remarks made by Iran's president. We are in the 21st century. Canada will never accept such hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism. Never."
"The comments are all the more troubling given Iran's nuclear ambitions and its refusal to cooperate fully with International Atomic Energy inspectors," Pettigrew said.