Image: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Hasan Sarbakhshian  /  AP
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a "fake regime" at a rare press conference in Tehran on Monday.
updated 4/24/2006 2:30:04 PM ET 2006-04-24T18:30:04

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday renewed his criticism of Israel, calling it a “fake regime” that cannot continue to exist.

“Some 60 years have passed since the end of World War II. Why should the people of Germany and Palestine pay now for a war in which the current generation was not involved?” Ahmadinejad said at a news conference.

“We say that this fake regime (Israel) cannot not logically continue to live,” he said.

The remarks by the hard-line leader came a day after interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urged the international community to work against Iran’s nuclear program, saying Tehran’s ambitions threaten not only Israel but all of Western civilization.

“From the point of view of seriousness, this tops the state of Israel’s list, it is potentially an existential threat,” a government statement quoted Olmert telling the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Israel has long identified Iran as its biggest threat, and these concerns have grown amid repeated calls by Ahmadinejad for Israel’s destruction.

Israel: Don’t ignore Iran's rhetoric
On the eve of Holocaust memorial day, Israeli President Moshe Katsav said the world must not ignore current calls for the destruction of Israel.

"I call on the Western world not to stand silently in the face of the nations that are trying to acquire nuclear weapons and preach for the destruction of the state of Israel," Katsav said without mentioning Iran by name.

Earlier Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Iran's nuclear program was the most serious threat faced by Jews since the Holocaust. “Since Hitler we have not faced such a threat,” he said.

Iranian officials have recently softened their rhetoric against Israel, saying their words were aimed against Zionism and did not constitute a military threat.

The war of words has fueled speculation that Israel could strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. In 1981, it bombed the main Iraqi reactor, driving Saddam Hussein’s quest for nuclear weapons underground until it was uncovered by U.N. inspectors.

Israel, like the United States, has not ruled out military action but says it prefers to see diplomacy run its course.

“Pressure must be applied on the Iranians to ensure that they realize there is no returning from the path they are taking,” Mofaz said.

Security Council deadline
Iran's comments came four days before Friday’s expiration of a U.N. Security Council deadline for Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors material for nuclear warheads.

The United States says Iran is using a civilian nuclear program as a cover for producing weapons. Iran denies that, saying its program is designed only to generate electrical power.

Earlier this month, Iran announced that for the first time it had enriched uranium with the use of 164 centrifuges, a step toward large-scale enrichment — which would be necessary to for making nuclear fuel or weapons.

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