Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the Washington Post on Sunday that the Israeli-Arab conflict should be resolved by allowing the Palestinians to vote the "Zionist regime" out of existence.
Asked by interviewer David Ignatius to affirm Israel's right to exist, Ahmadinejad said "I think they should allow the people of Palestine in all the territories of Palestine to decide, and whatever they decide, that is what should be done." He added: "This doesn’t need nuclear weapons, missiles rockets or destroying people’s homes."
Ignatius pressed the Iranian leader to clarify that he was advocating the eradication of the state of Israel, to which Ahmadinejad replied: "I asked you if the occupation in the Palestinian territories comes to an end what would there remain? Is there a Zionist regime in existence without occupation?"
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Ahmadinejad of the dangers of incendiary rhetoric when the two men met Sunday before this week's annual gathering of world leaders at the UN General Assembly. "The secretary-general drew attention to the potentially harmful consequences of inflammatory rhetoric, counter-rhetoric and threats from various countries in the Middle East," Ban's press office said in a statement.
Ahmadinejad also addressed questions of a potential Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, telling the Post he does "not take very seriously the issue of the Zionists and the possible dangers emanating from them." He added: "Of course they would love to find a way for their own salvation by making a lot of noise and to raise stakes in order to save themselves."
In an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan on Sunday, Ahmadinejad said "Of course the Zionists are very much, very adventuresome, very much seeking to fabricate things and I think they see themselves at the end of the line and I do firmly believe that they seek to create new opportunities for themselves and their adventurous behaviors."
Reuters contributed to this report