The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iran backs off from threats

Tehran, Oct. 29 (Reuters): Iran today cautiously retreated from remarks by its President that Israel should be “wiped off the map”, saying it stood by its UN commitments and would not use violence against another country.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is committed to its UN charter commitments. It has never used force against a second country or threatened the use of force,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday stood by his sabre-rattling rhetoric, calling for Israel to be destroyed.

While not specifically refuting the President, the foreign ministry said Tehran had no intention of launching an assault on the Jewish state and would back whatever course the Palestinians chose to resolve the West Asia conflict. Iran has developed Shahab-3 ballistic missiles that are capable of hitting Israel.

Ahmadinejad’s remarks were condemned by the UN Security Council and governments across the world summoned Iranian ambassadors to explain the President’s comments. The US said Ahmadinejad’s remarks underscored its fears that Tehran was pursuing nuclear arms. Tehran denies the charge.

The foreign ministry statement said Ahmadinejad had mapped out Iran’s policy on Israel at the UN in New York last month. “The official stance ... is that the occupation of Palestine should end, refugees should return and a democratic state should be formed with Jerusalem as its capital,” the statement added.

Ali Larijani, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said Iran would back whatever the Palestinians chose.

“Iran is still insisting on its earlier position that the Palestinian people should decide their own future,” he said.

This was the stance taken by Iran’s reformist government under former President Mohammad Khatami whose eight-year presidency ended this year. Such a policy left the path open for a two state solution.

The idea that Israel should be erased is a common feature of clerical rhetoric in Iran, but politicians have normally been more guarded in their remarks in recent years.

But the Revolutionary Guards commander-in-chief, responsible for the Shahab-3 missiles, backed his President. “The remarks the President made were actually the words of the whole nation,” Yahya Rahim Safavi told the Hambastegi newspaper.

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