"The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, refused today to retract his call for Israel to be wiped off the map, while the Iranian embassy in Moscow attempted to calm the growing diplomatic crisis.So intemperate were his remarks that even Kofi Annan, normally not one for strong words, rebuked Iran and reminded them these remarks were inconsistent with membership of the UN.
Mr Ahmadinejad appeared at an anti-Israeli rally attended by thousands of Iranians in Tehran and rejected the international condemnation of his comments as "invalid".
"My words were the Iranian nation's words. Westerners are free to comment, but their reactions are invalid," he said."
This was the rally to celebrate the last Friday of Ramadan. The Herald reports that the Iranian foreign ministry later said that the blame for the Middle East's complex problems lay with the West's support of Israel, a rather simple-minded analysis shared by a depressingly large number of well-meaning western liberals.
There seems little doubt that Ahmadinejad's remarks were deliberate and that he spoke for the regime. From the Scotsman:
'While there was no official response to international criticism from the Iranian government last night, groups close to the leadership in Tehran were unrepentant.The US has tried to avoid being publicly drawn into the dispute, saying in rather uncharacteristically understated language only that this situation "underscores the concerns we have about Iran's nuclear intentions". The Scotsman reports Blair as being furious, not least because Britain, along with France and Germany, have been working hard at a diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The Revolutionary Guard, a powerful military body to which Mr Ahmadinejad once belonged, last night described Israel as a "cancerous tumour".
"We have no doubts that at the end of the road, the victory of Muslims and the defeat of Israel is inevitable," a guard spokesman told an Iranian news agency, adding that the West should be "afraid".'
Could someone - perhaps a representative of CND - drop me a line and explain again with some clever relativist argument why Iran going nuclear is nothing to worry about? I'm a simple soul and so far I just don't get it. But please don't try and tell me this wouldn't be happening if Senator Kerry had won the Presidential election - I'm not that simple.
Update - Missed this from Simon Tisdall in the Guardian:
'Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's greenhorn president, sent a shiver of alarm across Europe and the Middle East with his demand that Israel be "wiped off the face of the Earth". But even if the remark was more than mere rhetoric, Mr Ahmadinejad's ability to pursue a confrontational policy is severely circumscribed.'Ok but it does seem, as mentioned above, that Ahmadinejad is not purely speaking for himself, which I would have thought gives us reason to think the description of his comments as a 'gaffe' is a little complacent. Tisdall is nearer the mark though when he says:
'Mr Ahmadinejad's electoral honeymoon has also been brief. He is under fire for failing to share out oil income and create jobs. There have been rows over cabinet appointments and control of the oil ministry. And there are insidious suggestions that he is out of his depth. All this may explain his apparent need to adopt "bold" leadership postures.'Indeed this seems highly likely but at the risk of boring with repetition, "bold" postures plus nukes are not something that I personally feel particularly relaxed about...