TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran's president said on Sunday the Lebanese and the Palestinians had pressed a "countdown button" to bring an end to Israel.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who triggered outrage in the West two years ago when he said Israel should be "wiped off the map", has often referred to the destruction of the Jewish state but says Iran is not a threat.
"With God's help, the countdown button for the destruction of the Zionist regime has been pushed by the hands of the children of Lebanon and Palestine," Ahmadinejad said in a speech.
"By God's will, we will witness the destruction of this regime in the near future," he said. He did not elaborate.
Iran often praises the Palestinians for what it says is their resistance against Israeli occupation. Tehran also described the war last summer between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel as a victory for the Iranian-backed group.
"If you make a mistake and create another war against the oppressed Lebanese nation, this time the angry ocean of the nations of the region will remove your rotten … roots from the region," the president said in another speech on Sunday night.
Ahmadinejad's speeches were made ahead of ahead of Monday's anniversary of the death in 1989 of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, whose words Ahmadinejad echoed when he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map".
The president's comments caused consternation in Israel and the West, which also fear Iran is seeking to build an atomic arsenal under cover of a civilian nuclear power programme, a charge Tehran denies.
Although Ahmadinejad has said Iran is not a threat to Israel, Iranian officials have said Tehran would respond swiftly to any Israeli attack. Some analysts have speculated Israel could seek to knock out Iran's atomic sites.