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Peres says Iran's president to end up like Saddam

Written by: Staff

JERUSALEM, Apr 15 (Reuters) Israeli veteran statesman Shimon Peres, responding to the latest verbal attack on the Jewish state by Iran's president, said today that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would end up like Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

In a speech to a conference on the Palestinian issue yesterday Ahmadinejad said: ''The Zionist regime is a decaying and crumbling tree that will fall with a storm.'' Peres, in a statement quoted by Israel Radio, called Ahmadinejad's comments a direct threat to Israel's existence.

''His statements are reminiscent of those voiced by Saddam Hussein. Ahmadinejad will end up like Saddam Hussein,'' he said, referring to the Iraqi leader ousted by a US invasion in 2003 and on trial for the killings of 148 Shi'ites two decades ago.

''Ahmadinejad represents Satan, not God,'' Peres said.

''History has denounced the madmen and those who waved the sword.'' Peres, a former prime minister, is a senior member of acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's centrist Kadima party. He is expected to hold a top cabinet post in the government Olmert is forming, following Israel's March 28 election.

Last year, Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iran's official IRNA news agency as telling a conference that Israel must be wiped off the map.

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly questioned the veracity of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany. In December he described it as a myth.

Yesterday, he said: ''Are the consequences of the establishment of this (Israeli) regime less than the Holocaust which you (the West) are claiming? If there are doubts regarding the Holocaust, there is really no doubt regarding the Palestinian disaster and holocaust.'' Ahmadinejad, a religiously conservative former member of the hardline Revolutionary Guards, came to power last year. He has toughened government policies, including on nuclear issues.

On Tuesday, Ahmadinejad declared that Iran had enriched uranium to a level used in power stations and wanted to pursue industrial-scale production. He said the achievement meant the world should now consider Iran a nuclear power.

The West believes the move is part of Iranian efforts to develop nuclear bombs, a charge Iran denies.

Giora Eiland, head of Israel's National Security Council that reports to the government, said despite Ahmadinejad's declaration, it was not too late for international diplomacy to try to head off production of an Iranian atomic bomb.

''It's true they (the Iranians) have taken a certain step up in capability, and have created a research and development capability in uranium enrichment,'' Eiland told Israel Radio.

''But there's a technological and time gap between this stage ... and the ability to manufacture a real (nuclear) arsenal,'' he said, without giving a timeframe.

Reuters SHB RS1552

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