msnbc.com news services
updated 4/14/2006 11:49:32 AM ET 2006-04-14T15:49:32

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a "rotten, dried tree" that will be annihilated by "one storm."

"Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation," Ahmadinejad told a conference for supporting the Palestinians that opened in the Iranian capital on Friday, days after declaring his country had become a nuclear power by enriching uranium.

But the tone of Ahmadinejad's speech was slightly more moderate than fiery rhetoric last year, when Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted him as telling a conference: "Israel must be wiped off the map."

"The existence of the Zionist regime is tantamount to an imposition of an unending and unrestrained threat so that none of the nations and Islamic countries of the region and beyond can feel secure from its threat," Ahmadinejad said on Friday.

In February, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had said Ahmadinejad's October comments had been misunderstood and that he had been speaking about the Israeli "regime" not the country. Mottaki had said a country could not be removed from the map.

His October remarks drew widespread condemnation.

Some analysts had said Ahmadinejad might use slightly more moderate language at Friday's conference after announcing Iran had successfully enriched uranium, a step condemned by world powers and which has ratcheted up pressure on the country.

The West believes it is part of Iranian efforts to develop nuclear bombs, a charge Iran denies.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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