Hard-line Iran could be seen as 'real threat': Blair
HAMPTON COURT, England (AFP) Oct 27, 2005
Iran will be seen by the rest of the world as a "real threat" if it persists with its hard line on Israel and its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday.
Upping the ante in a looming showdown with Tehran, Blair said he felt "a real sense of revulsion" after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map".
"If they continue down this path, then people are going to believe that they are a real threat to our world security and stability," he told reporters after a day-long European Union summit at Hampton Court Palace outside London.
In an apparent reference to the United States, Blair -- whose nation holds the rotating EU presidency -- said "we will have discussions with our main allies over the next few days" on how to respond to Ahmadinejad's remarks.
French President Jacques Chirac was equally upset, calling his Iranian counterpart's words "senseless and irresponsible" and warning that they ""run the risk for his country of being left on the outside by other nations".
In a statement earlier in the day, the leaders of the 25 EU member states who had gathered at Hampton Court to debate Europe's response to globalisation "condemned in the strongest terms" the Iranian leader's words.
"Calls for violence, and for the destruction of any state, are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community," they said.
In London, Paris, Bonn and a number of other European capitals, Iranian ambassadors and charges d'affaires were summoned to foreign ministries to hear stern official protests.
Blair's remarks were more candid and angry as he recalled how Ahmadinejad had made his statement in Tehran just hours before a suicide bombing in Israel, claimed by Islamic Jihad, killed five Israelis.
He speculated that some members of the Iranian regime probably thought the rest of the world was "sufficiently distracted" with other issues to notice what Iran was doing and saying.
"I think they will be making a very big mistake if they do that," Blair said.
"I have never come across a situation of the president of a country saying they want to wipe out -- not that they've got a problem with, or an issue with -- but to wipe out another country. This is unacceptable," he said.
"Their attitude towards Israel, their attitude towards terrorism, their attitude towards the nuclear weapons issue -- it isn't acceptable," Blair said.
Israel, which alleges Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and long-range missiles that could strike at its heart, responded Thursday by saying the Islamic republic should be drummed out of the United Nations.
But Tehran, which insists its nuclear intentions are peaceful, was unrepentant, with the spokesman of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Seyed Massoud Jazihiri, describing Israel as a "cancerous tumour".
Britain, France and Germany, the three biggest EU powers, have sought to woo Tehran with promises of aid and trade in return for pledges not to develop nuclear weapons that could tip the balance of power in the Middle East.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors in September found Iran in non-compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, paving the way for the issue to be referred to the UN Security Council.
The matter is to be taken up at the next IAEA board meeting in Vienna, scheduled for November 24.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.