EU leaders condemn Iranian leader for Israel comments


Tony Blair tonight issued a stark warning to Iran's leaders that the world would not allow them to undermine international peace and security.

President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmedinejad
President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmedinejad

As European leaders today united to condemn hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map", the Prime Minister said that Tehran's behaviour was "totally unacceptable".

Speaking at the end of an informal EU summit at Hampton Court, he said that he would be consulting over the coming days with Britain's key allies over what steps they could take.

"I am sure that there are people in Iran in the leadership who believe the world is sufficiently distracted with everything else that we cannot afford the time to focus on this issue. I think they will be making a very big mistake if they do that," Mr Blair said.

"If they continue down this path, then people are going to believe that they are a real threat to our world security and peace."

The Prime Minister expressed his anger and "revulsion" at Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks about Israel.

He added: "There has been a long time in which I have been answering questions on Iran with everyone saying to me `Tell us you are not going to do anything about Iran'.

"If they carry on like this the question people are going to be asking us is 'When are you going to do something about this'. "Can you imagine a state like that with an attitude like that, having a nuclear weapon?"

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Iran should be expelled from the United Nations over the comments.

A statement from Mr Sharon's office quoted the Israeli leader as saying: "A country that calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member of the United Nations."

"Such a country that has nuclear weapons is a danger, not only to Israel and the Middle East, but also to Europe," Mr Sharon said in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

In a joint statement the EU leaders said Mr Ahmadinejad's words would raise "concern" about Tehran's future intentions, amid already heightened fears that the regime is trying to develop a nuclear bomb.

In London, the Iranian charge d'affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office to explain what a spokesman described as Mr Ahmadinejad's "deeply disturbing and sickening" remarks.

The latest downturn in relations with the Islamic Republic overshadowed the main purpose of the summit, summoned by Tony Blair to discuss how the EU

The leaders' statement said: "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.

"Such comments will cause concern about Iran's role in the region, and its future intentions. "The fact that these comments were made on the same day as a horrific attack on Israeli civilians should reinforce the lesson that incitement to violence, and the terrorism it breeds, are despicable and unacceptable acts."

Mr Ahmadinejads's comments in a speech to a conference in Tehran entitled The World Without Zionism coincided with Wednesday's suicide attack in the Israeli coastal town of Hadera which left five dead.

The Iranian president deliberately invoked the memory of the Islamic Republic's revolutionary founder, Ayatollah Khomeni, who was an implacable opponent of Israel and the West.

"There is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will soon wipe this disgraceful blot (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world," he declared.

"As the imam (Ayatollah Khomeni) said, Israel must be wiped off the map." Relations between London and Tehran were already at a low ebb after British officials accused the Iranian "elements" of supplying the insurgents in Iraq with the sophisticated explosive devices used to kill eight British soldiers.