Fri, Apr 19, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Rouhani calls on neighbors to ‘drive back Zionism’

AFP, TEHRAN

Members of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force march in a military parade marking National Army Day in Tehran yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani yesterday called on Middle East states to “drive back Zionism,” in an Army Day repudiation of Israel.

Speaking flanked by top generals before troops began their annual march-past, Rouhani also sought to reassure the region that the weaponry on display was for defensive purposes and not a threat.

“The region’s nations have lived alongside each other for centuries and never had a problem... If there is a problem, it is caused by others,” he said in the speech broadcast live on state television. “Let us stand together, be together and rid the region of the aggressor’s presence.”

“The power of our armed forces is the power of the region’s countries, the Islamic world,” he said. “If we have a problem in the region today, its roots are either with Zionism or America’s arrogance.”

Rouhani called on Muslim nations to band together and “restore the historical right of the nation of Palestine,” saying that “Zionism ... has been committing crimes in the region for the past 70 years.”

“The final victory will surely be with the righteous,” he added.

The military parade was held next to the south Tehran mausoleum of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

It showcased some of Iran’s latest weaponry, including the domestically designed and manufactured Kowsar fighter jet, which was unveiled last year.

Iran also displayed its short-range Zelzal missile and an upgraded model of the Russian S-200 air defense system.

US-manufactured Bell, Cobra and Chinook helicopters bought before the Islamic revolution of 1979 also took part in the air display.

Diatribes against Israel are standard fare of official speeches in Iran, although some, such as a call by former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” have triggered international condemnation.

Rouhani has previously called Israel a “cancerous tumor,” and called on Muslim governments to unite against it and its US ally.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said that Israel would soon cease to exist, but have usually been careful to underline that it would not come about through a direct attack by Iran.

The presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Syria supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the eight-year civil war has sharply increased tensions between the regional foes.

Israel has said that it has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes targeting the forces of Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that he would never allow Iran to establish a long-term military presence in Israel’s northeastern neighbor.

Last week, Washington placed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on its blacklist of “foreign terrorist organizations.”

Rouhani yesterday told Washington that “an insult to the guards ... is an insult to the great nation of Iran.”

“America’s leaders are lost in their delusions,” he said, adding that Washington was the real source of terrorism in the region.

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