Ahmadinejad in New York: Israel will be 'eliminated'

In New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed on Monday that Israel had no roots in the Middle East and would eventually be "eliminated." Ignoring a warning by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to avoid incendiary rhetoric during the annual high-level General Assembly session, the Iranian leader said: "Iran has been around for ten 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. 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.”

Ahmadinejad added: “Iran will not be damaged with foreign bombs. We don't even count them as any part of any equation for Iran. During a historical phase, they [the Israelis] represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated." He said his regimedid not take seriously the threat that Israel could launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, and he also denied sending arms to Syria to shore up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The White House quickly dismissed the Iranian president's comments as "disgusting, offensive and outrageous." Spokesman Tommy Vietor reaffirmed the American commitment to Israel's security: "President Ahmadinejad's comments are characteristically disgusting, offensive and outrageous. They underscore again why America's commitment to the security of Israel must be unshakeable, and why the world must hold Iran accountable for its utter failure to meet its obligations."

Ahmadinejad is scheduled to address the General Assembly of the United Nations on Wednesday.  He has used previous UN gatherings to question the Holocaust. Attending what will likely be his last General Assembly as he nears the end of his second term next year, the Iranian president also spoke at a high-level UN session on the rule of law, prompting a walkout by Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor.

"Ahmadinejad showed again that he not only threatens the future of the Jewish people, he seeks to erase our past," Prosor said in a statement. "Three thousand years of Jewish history illustrate the clear danger of ignoring fanatics like Iran's president, especially as he inches closer to acquiring nuclear weapons."

New Iran sanctions in pipeline

Meanwhile, Britain, France and Germany called for fresh economic sanctions on Iran in a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "If we want to reach a diplomatic and peaceful solution to Iran's nuclear program, then we must increase the pressure," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. Western sanctions on Iran tightened markedly this year with an EU ban on crude oil purchases from Iran and US sanctions targeting banks that deal with Iran's central bank. Those sanctions have not yielded tangible progress toward a diplomatic solution.

Ahmadinejad's annual visits to New York are routinely met with protests against his anti-Israel rhetoric. United Against Nuclear Iran, a group that opposes Iran acquiring an atomic bomb, protested at the Iranian official's hotel with a banner reading "Out of the Warwick, out of New York, out of the UN!"

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