11:25 AM EDT Oct 27
LONDON (CP) - Governments around the world, including Canada, expressed shock and scorn Thursday at the Iranian president's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map," and several summoned Tehran's envoys in their capitals for a reprimand.
However, Israeli calls for Iran to be suspended from the United Nations over the remarks by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were not immediately taken up by other countries. In a speech Wednesday, Ahmadinejad denounced Israel and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks "will wipe this stigma from the face of the Islamic world."
Citing the words of the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Ahmadinejad added: "Israel must be wiped off the map."
Israeli Vice-Premier Shimon Peres called for Iran to be expelled from the United Nations, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel had not decided whether to ask officially for Iran's removal.
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 British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew condemned the comments on behalf of Canada in a strongly worded statement issued in Ottawa.
"We are in the 21st century. Canada will never accept such hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism. Never," the statement said.
"The comments are all the more troubling given Iran's nuclear ambitions and its refusal to co-operate fully with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors," Pettigrew added.
"This refusal underlines the need for all countries to stand together to ensure that Iran is prevented from developing nuclear weaponry . . . including the possibility that the UN Security Council may have to send a strong message," he said.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard called Ahmadinejad's remarks "dangerous" and said they required a UN response, although he wasn't specific.
The 25 European Union leaders, meeting at Hampton Court Palace near London, also condemned the remarks, saying they "will cause concern about Iran's role in the region and its future intentions."
"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," the EU leaders said in a statement.
Relations between the EU and Iran have deteriorated in recent months after negotiations with Tehran failed to get Iran to drop its nuclear program, which the EU and the United States fears is being used to build weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Ahmadinejad's remarks "serve to underscore our concern as well as the international community's concern about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons."
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the Iranian leader's comments were "completely unacceptable."
But when asked whether Iran should be expelled from the UN, Barroso said: "I will not make any concrete proposal now."
Britain's Foreign Office called Ahmadinejad's comments "deeply disturbing and sickening," and said Iran's charge d'affaires would be summoned later Thursday.
France, Spain and The Netherlands summoned the Iranian ambassadors in their capitals to explain the remarks.
The German Foreign Ministry also called in a representative of the Iranian Embassy to protest the comments, while Italy said the remarks confirmed concerns over Tehran's nuclear program.
"The contents and tone of such unacceptable statements confirm worries over the political positions pursued by the new Iranian leadership, especially concerning the nuclear dossier," the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on a visit to Israel, criticized the Iranian leader. "I don't agree that anyone should challenge the right of any UN member to exist, this is indeed inadmissible," Lavrov said.
But on Wednesday he brushed off Israel's calls for Security Council action, saying the matter is "too serious to be guided by politics."
© The Canadian Press, 2005
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