Friday, October 20, 2006


From the London Times :

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the outspoken Iranian President, has accused Europe of stirring up hatred in the Middle East by supporting Israel, warning that it "may get hurt" if anger in the region reached a tipping point.

While the President has frequently been vocal in his criticism of the US and Israel, he has rarely directed a specific attack on Europe. In recent weeks however, European nations - previously open to the prospect of negotiations - have been hardening their stance towards Tehran.

Last night it emerged that France, Germany and Britain were close to agreeing the finishing touches of a draft UN Security Council resolution on sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt its programme of uranium enrichment. Mr Ahmadinejad’s comments came as diplomats said they expected the resolution to be introduced next week.

"You should believe that this regime (Israel) cannot last and has no more benefit to you. What benefit have you got in supporting this regime, except the hatred of the nations?" said Mr Ahmadinejad, addressing European countries in a speech on state radio.

"We have advised the Europeans that the Americans are far away, but you are the neighbours of the nations in this region. We inform you that the nations are like an ocean that is welling up, and if a storm begins, the dimensions will not stay limited to Palestine, and you may get hurt."

With its influence in the Middle East, Iran could stir unrest in areas in which European forces are located, including southern Lebanon, where militant group Hezbollah have a large presence and where French peacekeeping troops are stationed. Iranian-backed militias in southern Iraq, where British troops are based, are also a source of concern.

Later today, Mr Ahmadinejad returned to familiar rhetoric denouncing Israel and threatening any country which supported the Jewish state.

"You imposed a group of terrorists ... on the region," he told a crowd of thousands at a pro-Palestinian rally in Tehran. "It is in your own interest to distance yourself from these criminals... This is an ultimatum. Don’t complain tomorrow. Nations will take revenge."

Mr Ahmadinejad said that Israel no longer had any reason to exist and would soon be no more. "This regime, thanks to God, has lost the reason for its existence," he said. "Efforts to stabilize this fake regime, by the grace of God, have completely failed... You should believe that this regime is disappearing."

He reaffirmed Iran’s refusal to back down over its nuclear ambitions despite the threat of sanctions, which he referred to as "illegitimate".

"Iran is ready to negotiate but will not tolerate the slightest pressure, he said, adding that on his recent visit to UN headquarters in New York he had dared Western nations to close their own nuclear fuel programmes and let Iran supply the material.

"I told them ’You shut down (your nuclear programmes) and we will produce fuel from the fuel cycle in five years time and sell it to you at a 50 per cent discount," he said.

While there is agreement amongst the five permanent members of the UN Security Council on the need for sanctions against Tehran, a key difficulty in passing any resolution will be in finding consensus from China and Russia on the exact measures imposed. Both have important economic ties to Iran and have traditionally been reluctant to use sanctions as a diplomatic tool.

Today, Li Zhaoxing, the Chinese Foreign Minister, insisted that Beijing would play a constructive role on the issue, but did not reveal the extent to which it would support measures imposed.

Officials in Washington said a first set of punitive sanctions was likely to focus on banning the supply of material and funding for Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Other steps could include the freezing of assets and travel bans on nuclear and weapons scientists.