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USA: Israel has "no roots" in the Middle East: Ahmadinejad
Iran does not take seriously Israeli threats of attack, but is prepared to defend itself, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday, while saying that Israel has "no roots" in the history of the Middle East and would be "eliminated."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted Israel could strike Iran's nuclear sites and has criticized US President Barack Obama's position that sanctions and diplomacy should be given more time to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Iran denies that it is seeking nuclear arms and says its atomic work is peaceful, aimed at generating electricity.
"Fundamentally we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists. ... We have all the defensive means at our disposal and we are ready to defend ourselves," Ahmadinejad told reporters in New York, where he is due to attend the UN General Assembly.
"While we are fully ready to defend ourselves, we do not take such threats seriously," he said, speaking through an interpreter.
"Iran has been around for the last seven, 10 thousand years. They (the Israelis) have been occupying those territories for the last 60 to 70 years, with the support and force of the westerners. They have no roots there in history," he said.
"We do believe that they have found themselves at a dead end and they are seeking new adventures in order to escape this dead end. Iran will not be damaged with foreign bombs," Ahmadinejad said, referring to Israel.
"We don't even count them as any part of any equation for Iran. During a historical phase, they represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated," Ahmadinejad added.
In 2005, Ahmadinejad called Israel a "tumor" and echoed the words of the former Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, by saying that Israel should be wiped off the map.
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a brigadier general in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted on Sunday as saying that Iran could launch a pre-emptive strike on Israel if it was sure the Jewish state was preparing to attack it.
Ahmadinejad said the nuclear issue was one ultimately between the United States and Iran, and must be resolved with negotiations.
"The nuclear issue is not a problem. But the approach of the United States on Iran is important. We are ready for dialogue, for a fundamental resolution of the problems, but under conditions that are based on fairness and mutual respect," he said.
"We are not expecting a 33-year-old problem between the United States and Iran to be resolved in a speedy fashion. But there is no other way besides dialogue."
Iran has held several rounds of talks this year on its nuclear issue with six world powers. The six are the permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain – plus Germany.
The six powers are represented by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said last Wednesday that he and Ashton had agreed to defer more nuclear talks until the latter had consulted the six powers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week.
On Sunday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Ahmadinejad and warned him of the dangers of incendiary rhetoric in the Middle East.
Ahmadinejad is due to speak at a high-level meeting on the rule of law at the United Nations on Monday and then to address the General Assembly on Wednesday.
Ahmadinejad also accused the United States, Britain and France of "violating the basic rights and freedoms of other nations."
"The discriminatory privilege of the veto right enjoyed by some members of the Security Council lacks legitimacy," he declared.
"And that is why the Security Council has failed to establish justice and ensure sustainable peace and security in the world," he said.
"Some members of the Security Council with veto rights have chosen silence with regard to the nuclear warheads of a fake regime while at the same time they impede scientific progress of other nations," he said.
This was an implicit reference to Israel, which has an undeclared nuclear weapons program of its own, and is blamed by Iran to be behind the assassination of five Iranian nuclear scientists over the past two years.
Western powers believe Iran is enriching uranium with a view to building a nuclear weapon, and have imposed tough economic sanctions on the Islamic regime, but Ahmadinejad accused them of abusing their UN powers.
Iran denies that it seeks to develop nuclear weapons.
The Syria question
There will be high-level side meetings on Iran's nuclear program and the Syrian conflict during the General Assembly, but UN diplomats do not expect either issue to be resolved soon.
The United Nations and Western officials have accused Iran of supplying weapons to Syria's pro-government forces, while Syria's government has accused Qatar and Saudi Arabia of arming rebels determined to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Ahmadinejad rejected the charge that Iran was sending arms to Syria.
"The so-called news that you alluded to has been denied vehemently, officially," Ahmadinejad said in a response to a question. "We seek peace in Syria. We like and love both sides. ... We see both sides as equally our brothers."
"In Syria the intervention and meddling from outside have made conditions that much tougher," Ahmadinejad said. "We must help to quell the violence and help ... (facilitate) a national dialogue."
A UN Security Council panel of independent experts that monitors sanctions against Iran has uncovered several examples of Iran transferring arms to Syria.
The United States and Britain say they are providing non-lethal assistance to Syria's rebels such as communications equipment, but not arms.
Ahmadinejad also addressed the issue of a California-made anti-Islam video, "The Innocence of Muslims," that has sparked anti-American protests around the Muslim world.
He appeared to reject Washington's position that while it condemns the video's content, freedom of expression must be upheld.
"Freedoms must not interfere with the freedoms of others," Ahmadinejad said. "If someone insults, what would you do? ... Is insulting other people not a form of crime?"
Since the controversy over the video erupted this month, some Muslim leaders have reiterated calls for a UN measure outlawing insults to Islam and blasphemy in general.
Ahmadinejad was also asked about a move by an Iranian religious foundation, in response to the "The Innocence of Muslims," to increase its reward for the killing of British author Salman Rushdie.
"Where is he now?" Ahmadinejad asked of Rushdie. "Is he in the United States? If he is, you shouldn't broadcast that for his own safety."
Rushdie, an Indian-born British novelist who has nothing to do with the video, was condemned to death in 1989 by Khomeini, Iran's late leader, over his novel "The Satanic Verses," saying its depiction of the Prophet Mohammad was blasphemous.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)
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