KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that he sees no possibility of a war between his country and the United States or Israel.
"I assure you that there won't be any war in the future," Ahmadinejad told a news conference during a visit to Malaysia for a summit of developing Muslim nations.
Ahmadinejad's comments came less than 24 hours after Iran's Revolutionary Guards announced that its forces were carrying out a military drill involving "missile squads" and warned that the country would retaliate against any military strike by targeting Tel Aviv and U.S. warships in the Gulf.
Iranian officials have been issuing a mix of conciliatory and bellicose statements in recent weeks about the possibility of a clash with the U.S. and Israel.
Predicting Israel's collapse
Ahmadinejad also predicted Israel would collapse without Iranian action.
The Israelis "are a complex political group, but you should know this regime will be eventually destroyed and there is no need of any measure by Iranian people," he said when asked to comment on whether he has called for the destruction of Israel.
Ahmadinejad has in the past called for Israel's elimination. But his exact remarks have been disputed. Some translators say he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," but others say that would be better translated as "vanish from the pages of time" — implying Israel would disappear on its own rather than be destroyed.
Ahmadinejad also said Tuesday that the next U.S. administration "would need at least 30 years in order to compensate, renovate and innovate the damages done by Mr. Bush."
"Today, the government of the United States is on the threshold of bankruptcy — from political to economic," Ahmadinejad said.
"The greatest threat in the Middle East and the whole world ... is the United States' intervention in other countries," Ahmadinejad said.
He urged Washington to heal its image by "relying on (the) basis of justice, humanitarian acts and respect for human beings."
For months, Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials have said they don't believe the U.S. will attack because of its difficulties in Iraq, domestic worries and concerns over the fallout in the region. At the same time, Tehran has stepped up its warnings of retaliation if the Americans — or Israelis — do attack it, including threats to hit Israel and U.S. Gulf bases with missiles and stop oil traffic through the vital Gulf region.
Iran has pledged retaliation
The Web site of the elite Iranian force posted a statement late Monday quoting guard official Ali Shirazi as saying that Iran would retaliate against any military strike by targeting Tel Aviv and U.S. warships in the Gulf.
"The Zionist regime is pushing the White House to prepare for a military strike on Iran," Shirazi was quoted as saying.
"If such a stupidity is done by them, Tel Aviv and the U.S. naval fleet in the Persian Gulf will be the first targets which will be set on fire in Iran's crushing response."
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev would not comment on Shirazi's warning other than to say "his words speak for themselves."
State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said such statements by Iran were "unfortunately...not out of the norm."
"We continue to stress our desire to resolve this issue diplomatically," Gallegos added.
Israel's military sent warplanes over the eastern Mediterranean for a large military exercise in June that U.S. officials described as a possible rehearsal for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, which the West fears are aimed at producing atomic weapons.
The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, headquartered in the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain, is responsible for patrolling the Gulf, the Suez Canal and parts of the Indian Ocean.
Shirazi is a cleric who represents supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the guards' naval force. Khamenei has the final say over all state matters.
The Guards' Web site also announced late Monday that forces were carrying out a military drill involving "missile squads," but did not say where it was taking place.
Iran's guards and national army hold regular exercises two or three times a year, but the statement did not say whether this drill was one of them or if it was a special exercise.
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