January 30, 2008

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the West Wednesday to acknowledge Israel’s “imminent collapse.”

Speaking to a crowd on a visit to the southern port of Bushehr, where Iran’s first light-water nuclear power plant is being built by Russia, Ahmadinejad further incited his listeners to “stop supporting the Zionists, as [their] regime reached its final stage.”
“Accept that the life of Zionists will sooner or later come to an end,” the Iranian president said in a televised speech.

He added, “What we have right now is the last chapter [of Israeli atrocities] which the Palestinians and regional nations will confront and eventually turn in Palestine’s favor.”

Iran does not acknowledge Israel and Ahmadinejad has in the past sparked international outcry by referring to the systematic murder of six million Jews in World War II as a “myth” and calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

Iran is currently also mediating in the crisis over the Gaza Strip, where Israel has imposed a blockade on border crossings into the coastal territory, barring the entry of supplies into the already impoverished area. Last week, Palestinian militants blew holes in the barrier separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt, prompting hundreds of thousands of Gazans to pour into Egypt in search of supplies.

Ahmadinejad also urged the Western powers to help build nuclear power plants in his country saying it will be too late if they do not decide to do so immediately.

“If you will not come, this nation will build nuclear plants based on its own resources and when you come some four years later it will reject your request and not then give you any opportunity,” he said.

“I am addressing leaders of two or three powers; do you remember I sent you message and told you to stop be stubborn? If you think that you can block the movement of Iranian nation, you are wrong,” the Iranian president continued.

Also on Wednesday Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh, the deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization told reporters the first Iranian-made light-water 360 megawatt nuclear power plant will go operational in 2016 in the southwestern Iranian town of Darkhovin.

The official also said that the Bushehr plant would go on test operation in October, though its precision instruments have yet to be delivered.

The United Nations Security Council has been trying to pressure Iran to freeze uranium enrichment, but it has repeatedly refused, and officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency have privately said Tehran is expanding the program.

The Security Council is considering a new draft resolution that calls for additional sanctions against Iran, including bans on travel. Two sets of sanctions have already been imposed on Iran for refusing to halt enrichment.

The five veto-wielding members of the council – the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia – along with Germany, agreed last week on the basic terms of the new resolution. Diplomats have said the full, 15-nation Security Council will likely approve it next month.

Iran insists its enrichment activities are intended only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity, but the U.S. and others suspect Tehran’s real aim is to produce nuclear bombs.

A U.S. intelligence report released last month, however, concluded Tehran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in late 2003 and had not resumed it since.

Iranian officials have said they plan to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear energy in the next two decades.

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