U.S. News

Ahmadinejad snubs wife of kidnapped Israeli soldier

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refused to address an Israeli woman who asked him at a news conference on Tuesday about her husband, one of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah last year.

Israel's President Shimon Peres meets with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador George Dalaras in Jerusalem September 25, 2007. REUTERS/Yonathan Weitzman

As he has done at previous appearances at the United Nations, where he addressed the General Assembly earlier on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad also ignored a question asked by an Israeli journalist, saying only, “Next question.”

The Iranian president, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, is accused by Washington and Israel of supporting the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were seized by Hezbollah militants in a July 12, 2006, raid across the Israeli border. This sparked a 34-day Israeli-Hezbollah conflict that killed 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis.

A senior U.N. envoy said last month no evidence had been provided that the two were still alive.

Karnit Goldwasser accused Ahmadinejad at the news conference of being behind the kidnapping and urged him to at least provide some proof of life. “How come you’re not allowing the Red Cross to visit them,” she asked from the front row.

Ahmadinejad ignored the question. He later sparred with a journalist from Fox News who asked whether Iran’s goal was the destruction of the Jewish state.

He gave no clear answer, saying that the “Zionist regime” was illegal and an occupier and that the Palestinian people should be given the right to self-determination.

Karnit Goldwasser said she had come to New York to press Ahmadinejad to help. “He’s the one that can help us,” she told Reuters. “Iran is behind it. It’s very clear Ahmadinejad ... was the one who said ‘Let’s go kidnap soldiers from Israel’.”

An internal Israeli probe concluded the two soldiers were seriously wounded during their capture and at least one of them could be dead.

The rowdy news conference capped a visit in which Ahmadinejad defended Iran as a peaceful nation in a controversial speech at Columbia University and vilified Washington as an arrogant power intent on dominating the world.