Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei: Israel a 'Historical Cancer'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is one of the few Western leaders to have met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Ayatollah Khamenei.

In a press briefing Wednesday at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Aznar told journalists and diplomats that Khamenei sees Israel as an "historical cancer."

"Israel to him was a kind of historical cancer, an anomaly, a country to be put in flames and condemned to disappear," Aznar said.

Khamenei told the Spanish prime minister that an open confrontation with Israel and the U.S. is inevitable.

"In any case, at some point he said very clearly, though softly as he spoke, that a war against the U.S. and Israel was inevitable and that he was working for Iran to prevail in such a confrontation," Aznar recalled.

As to the Iranian quest to develop a nuclear bomb, Aznar said there's no question.

"Iran did not want to buy a bomb from North Korea or Pakistan. What he [Khamenei] wants Iran to have is the indigenous capability to produce an Iranian bomb," he said.

Aznar said he believes if the international community gives Iran enough time, it will move forward with its nuclear ambitions.

He also told journalists that Russian President Vladimir Putin believes it's okay to sell advanced weaponry to Iran because, in the end, Israel will deal with the Islamic Republic.

Aznar said he challenged Putin about selling S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, but Putin said it didn't matter.

"He came closer to me and whispered, 'Jose Maria, you, we, can sell everything even if we are worried by an Iranian nuclear bomb because at the end of the day, Israelis will take care of it," he said.

Iran's vision, Aznar said, is the total annihilation of Israel -- to "finish, eliminate, end their history."

Aznar said he didn't think it was fair to put the burden of solving a global problem on Israel alone.

Khamenei granted an unscheduled meeting with Aznar in October 2000 during a visit to Tehran, a rare occurrence with a senior leader of a Western nation.

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Julie Stahl

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