August 26, 2011 / 12:11 PM / 8 years ago

Iran says Palestinian statehood only "first step"

TEHRAN (Reuters) - The creation of a universally-recognised Palestinian state would be just a first step towards wiping out Israel, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to worshippers before speaking at Friday prayers on Jerusalem Day in Tehran August 26, 2011. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

He spoke weeks ahead of a U.N. General Assembly in New York where the Arab League plans to seek full U.N. membership for a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Aug. 16 that he would deliver the application to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at some point during a gathering of world leaders for the General Assembly starting the week of Sept. 19.

Ahmadinejad, restating a position expressed soon after taking office in 2005 that Israel was a “tumour” to be wiped off the map, urged Palestinians not to settle for a two-state solution that is backed by Abbas but to strive for a complete return of what they consider their land.

“Recognising the Palestinian state is not the last goal. It is only one step forward towards liberating the whole of Palestine,” Ahmadinejad told worshippers at Friday prayers on international Qods Day — an annual show of support for the Palestinian cause.

“The Zionist regime is a centre of microbes, a cancer cell and if it exists in one iota of Palestine it will mobilise again and hurt everyone.”

Any move for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations is likely to be vetoed by the United States, but even if it were to pass and Israelis and Palestinians found a way to co-exist, that would still be entirely insufficient, Ahmadinejad said.

“It is not enough for them to have a weak, powerless state in a very small piece of Palestine. They should unite to establish a state but the ultimate goal is the liberation of the whole of Palestine,” he said.

“I urge the Palestinians never to forget this ideal. Forgetting this ideal is equal to committing suicide. It would be giving an opportunity to an enemy which is on the verge of collapse and disappearance.”

Abbas has said he wants the world to recognize a Palestinian state at the General Assembly and support its admission to the United Nations, while sticking to his goal of two-state co-existence with Israel.

Palestinians want their state to encompass the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, from which Israel withdrew settlers in 2005, with East Jerusalem as their capital. Israel captured all three areas in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Ahmadinejad’s frequent anti-Israeli rhetoric has fuelled calls by the Jewish state for global efforts to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons which it fears could be used to wipe out Israel.

The United Nations has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran and Israel and Washington both say they do not rule out military action to stop Iran getting the atomic bomb.

Tehran says its atomic programme is for purely peaceful purposes such as power generation and accuses Israel of hypocrisy on the issue as it is widely believed to have the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East.

(Additional reporting by Ramin Mostafavi; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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