IRAN DENIES WILLING TO NUKE DOWN ISRAEL

TEHRAN 30 Dec. (IPS) Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi dismissed as "valueless" a letter addressed to the United Nations by the Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, warning against recent Iranian declarations inviting Arab and Muslim worlds to use atomic bomb against the Jewish State.

"The Zionist regime has distorted the statements by Head of the Iranian Expediency Council Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani to put a cover over the crimes committed by the Israeli leaders against the defenceless Palestinian people" the Iraqi-born Asefi said, without explaining the "distortions".

"The unsubstantiated remarks by the Israeli officials and the black propaganda launched by Israel are meant to prepare the grounds for new massacres of the Muslim people in Palestine, Asefi denounced, referring to a letter sent By Mr. Peres to Kofi Annan, the general secretary of the United Nations, protesting to Iranian threats against Israel.

Peres said the a speech pronounced by Iran’s powerful former president on 14 December "leaves no room for any doubt as to Iran's hatred of Israel and its declared goal to destroy it".

Peres quoted Hashemi-Rafsanjani as saying that "when the Islamic world acquires atomic weapons, the strategy of the West will hit a dead-end -- since the use of a single atomic bomb has the power to destroy Israel completely, while it will only cause partial damage to the Islamic world."

Actually, Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani had told worshippers, while leading the traditional Friday prayers, "If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce minor damages in the Muslim world", referring to Atomic bombs Israel is believed to have more than 200 of them.

As the head of Iran's powerful Assembly for Discerning the Interests of the State (ADIS), an advisory body to the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, which also acts as a "super government" by setting major domestic and international policies, Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani stands between the President and the leader.

His remarks had immediately met with a barrage of harsh criticism from Iranians, observing that not only the dropping of a nuclear bomb over Israel would kill as many Israelis as Palestinians and Christians, but also totally destroy Jerusalem, considered as the Muslim’s third holy place.

"Israel, which is crushing innocent people with all kinds of weapons is defended (by the West) but the Palestinians who strike blows on Israel with empty hands and at the expense of their lives are called 'terrorists,"' he said.

"Israel should not be fooled by its modern weapons and atomic bombs. Palestinians have found a stronger weapon, and that is suicide operations," he said.

"The West's support for Israel is liable to bring about World War III, which will be fought between those believers who seek a martyr's death, on the one hand, and those who represent the epitome of arrogance on the other hand", Peres further quoted the former Iranian president as saying in the same speech.

"The establishment of Israel is the most hideous occurrence in history. The Islamic world will not tolerate the continued existence of Israel in the region and will vomit it out from its midst", ADIS Chairman said, according to Peres.

The speech "clearly contradicts the Iranian claim that its plans to acquire nuclear technologies are designed only for peaceful purposes", Peres said in the letter to Mr. Annan, the British news agency Reuters reported from the UN in New York.

Peres said he appealed to Annan "to demand that Iran abandon its plan to arm itself with unconventional weapons, and that immediate steps be taken to ensure that a plan of this kind is not put into effect."

"I fear that it might be too late to deal with the danger we could face", Peres wrote Annan.

The United States, Britain and other Western nations have urged Tehran to help end 15 months of Middle East violence by stopping its backing for militant Palestinian groups targeting Israeli civilians in suicide attacks and for Hezbollah, which attacks Israeli military targets from southern Lebanon.

But Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani defended the militants as freedom fighters waging a legitimate struggle against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

In a panel discussion to be held shortly in Damascus, the Iranian and Syrian scholars would explore ways and means to provide support for the Palestinian movement of Intifada against the Israeli regime.

Syria’s Arab Centre for Strategic Studies would sponsor the panel discussion jointly with the Centre for Political and International Studies of the Iranian Foreign Ministry next Wednesday and Thursday. ENDS ISRAEL IRAN NUKE THREAT 301201