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Iranian President raises stakes against Israel

Last Updated: Friday, September 18, 2009 - 16:22

Tehran: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has raised the stakes against Israel by describing the Holocaust as a lie, just as world powers are trying to decide how to deal with the nuclear ambitions of an Iran in political turmoil.

"The pretext (Holocaust) for the creation of the Zionist regime (Israel) is false ... It is a lie based on an unprovable and mythical claim," he told worshippers at Tehran University at the end of an annual anti-Israel "Quds (Jerusalem) Day" rally.

"Confronting the Zionist regime is a national and religious duty."

Ahmadinejad`s anti-Western speeches and comments on the Holocaust have in the past caused an international outcry and isolated Iran which is at loggerheads with the West over its disputed nuclear program.

The hardline President warned leaders of Western-allied Arab and Muslim countries about dealing with Israel.

"This regime (Israel) will not last long. Do not tie your fate to it ... This regime has no future. Its life has come to an end," he said in a speech broadcast live on state radio.

His fresh comments came ahead of his appearance at the United Nations General Assembly next week and before Tehran attends talks on October 1 with major powers worried about the Islamic Republic`s nuclear strategy.

Western powers are concerned by what they have called Tehran`s defiance and "point-blank refusal" to suspend uranium enrichment and address the issue as demanded by UN Security Council resolutions since 2006.

Instead of directly addressing those demands, Iran handed world powers this month a proposal that spoke generally of talks on political, security, international and economic issues but was silent on its nuclear program.

Diplomats familiar with the Iranian proposal said it was vague and did not appear to pass "the smell test."

At home, Ahmadinejad is facing strong opposition which erupted into unrest following his disputed re-election in June.

On Friday, Iranian security forces clashed with supporters of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi and arrested at least 10 of them during annual anti-Israel rallies in central Tehran.

Thousands of supporters of Mousavi, wearing green wristbands or shawls, were among crowds marching in the "Quds Day" rallies.

Iran`s June Presidential Election, which was followed by huge opposition protests, plunged Iran into its worst political crisis in three decades and revealed deepening divisions within its ruling elites.

The opposition leaders say the poll was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad`s re-election. The authorities deny it.

Rights groups say thousands of people, including senior pro-reform figures, were arrested after the election, though most have been freed. The opposition says more than 70 people died during street protests after the vote. It contradicts the official death toll of 36 people.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, September 18, 2009 - 16:22
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