Natasha Mozgovaya
The Associated Press
September 30, 2008 - 8:00pm

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday said his country will stand beside Gaza's Hamas rulers and that Israel is on the path to eventual destruction.

According to Iranian state-run TV, Khamenei called Hamas' prime minister in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, a "mojahed," or soldier of holy war, saying the Iranian nation will "never let you be alone."

It also quoted him as saying Israel's Zionist regime is moving toward weakness, destruction and defeat and that the current generation of Palestinians will see "that great day."

Khamenei, who was speaking at prayers marking the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday, has predicted Israel's downfall in the past, like Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Khamenei has repeatedly called Israel a cancerous tumor that need to be removed from the Middle East.

Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Sallai Meridor issued a statement in response, saying "not since World War II has the world faced such a dangerous and significant threat. The fanatical Iranian regime, a sponsor of global terror, is threatening the elimination of another state and is striving to achieve a nuclear weapon.

"This should be a moment of truth for the world to take immediate actions to prevent this regime from pursuing the development of a military nuclear capability," the statement continued.

"In these days of reflection between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur," Meridor went on to say, "the writing on the wall from Iran presents each and everyone with the question 'what more can I do in this coming year to prevent this nightmare from becoming a reality?'"

Iran doesn't recognize Israel and backs the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israel had close ties with Iran when the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was in power. When the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the shah, Iran broke ties with Israel and turned the Israeli embassy in Tehran into the Palestinian Authority embassy.


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