Just one day after a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned that Israel would be destroyed in the event it launched a war on the Islamic Republic, the president of the country claimed he does not take the threat of an Israeli military launch seriously.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added, however, that Iran will defend itself should the Jewish state attack his country.
In an abrupt international about-face, Ahmadinejad told reporters on Monday afternoon that Israel “has no roots in the Middle East” and would be “eliminated.”
"Fundamentally, we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists [Israel]. ... We have all the defensive means at our disposal, and we are ready to defend ourselves," Ahmadinejad told reporters in New York through an interpreter, ahead of his appearance at the United Nations General Assembly. "They represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated.”
"While we are fully ready to defend ourselves, we do not take such threats seriously. The nuclear issue is not a problem. But the approach of the United States on Iran is important. We are ready for dialogue, for a fundamental resolution of the problems.”
The president’s remarks would appear to contradict the hostile words of Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a brigadier general of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who declared on Sunday that Iran would itself launch a preemptive strike on Israel if it thought the Israeli were planning a military maneuver against Tehran.
"If they [Israel] begin, it will spell their destruction and will be the end of the story. Even if they act rationally, this incident will happen," he said, adding that Iran "moving rapidly towards its goals and they [Israel] cannot tolerate this."
Ahmadinejad also told the Washington Post that Tehran is ready for dialogue with the West over the nuclear issue.
"Fundamentally, we have no concerns about moving forward with the dialogue; we have always wanted a dialogue,” he said.
”We have a very clear logic: We do believe that if everyone adheres to the rule of law and everyone respects all parties, that there will be no problems."
Speculation has spiraled all year that Israel will conduct a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent the Persians from developing nuclear bombs -- something Israel regards as a grave threat to its very existence. While Iran continues to deny that its atomic program is designed for weaponry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense chief Ehud Barak continue to beat the war drums, suggesting even that it could strike Iran without the support of approval of its allies in the United States.
Netanyahu has openly criticized U.S. President Barack Obama for insisting on negotiations and diplomacy as the primary means of stopping Iran from developing nuclear bombs.
However, Obama told U.S. television program "60 Minutes": "When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there," referring to the aggressive rhetoric coming out of Israel.
Iran's nuclear program will be a key issue of debate at the U.N. general assembly this week, with the U.S. and Western Europe likely to pressure Tehran into giving up its atomic ambitions.