June 4, 2008 / 1:37 AM / 10 years ago

Ahmadinejad calls Israel "false regime" of Zionists

ROME (Reuters) - Europe is bearing the economic and political costs of a “false regime” of Zionists, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday in his second verbal attack on Israel in as many days.

On Monday, Ahmadinejad said the Jewish state would soon disappear from the map and the “satanic power” of the United States faced destruction.

“I do not believe that my declarations create problems,” Ahmadinejad said through a translator on arriving for his first trip to western Europe as president.

“People like my comments, because people will save themselves from the imposition of the Zionists. European peoples have suffered the greatest damage from Zionists and today the costs of this false regime, be they political or economic costs, are on Europe’s shoulders,” he said.

Ahmadinejad did not elaborate. He is in Rome to attend a United Nations summit on global food security.

The Iranian president reached the summit venue protected by tight security and has effectively been snubbed by many Western participants. He has no formal bilateral meetings planned.

Ahmadinejad had asked for a private audience with Pope Benedict. The Vatican said all such requests by heads of state who wanted to see the pope during the food summit were declined because he would not have been able to meet them all.

A Vatican statement said media interpretations that the pope was snubbing anyone were wrong.

On Monday Ahmadinejad said: “You should know that the criminal and terrorist Zionist regime which has 60 years of plundering, aggression and crimes in its file has reached the end of its work and will soon disappear off the geographical scene.”

In New York, Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said he had complained to the United Nations and the Italian government about Ahmadinejad’s presence at the conference organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization.

“It is deplorable that a leader like him, who is failing both his own people and the international community, is allowed to hijack the agenda of this important FAO conference,” Lauder said.

The United States, which severed ties with Iran shortly after its 1979 Islamic revolution, is leading efforts to isolate Tehran over its disputed nuclear program, which the West suspects is a front for developing atomic bombs.

Washington says it wants a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear row but has not ruled out military action if that fails.

Iran, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, says its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity and insists it will not bow to Western pressure.

Editing by Robert Woodward

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