TEHRAN - Hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy was imitating the “arrogant” style of the pharaohs who ruled ancient Egypt, state television reported.
Sarkozy, an outspoken critic of Iran since coming to office in 2007, said on Monday he could not shake hands with Ahmadinejad because he had said Israel should be “wiped off the map”. He also said Ahmadinejad did not represent Iran.
Ahmadinejad, who outraged the West in 2005 by calling Israel a “tumour” to be wiped off the map, accused Sarkozy in a speech at a rally in southern Iran of adopting “an arrogant pharaonic style” towards the Tehran government.
“Sir, no one in Iran has demanded to negotiate or shake hands with you,” Ahmadinejad said. “Then why do you set conditions?” he asked in the speech in Khuzestan province, broadcast live on state television.
In Islamic tradition and the Koran, pharaohs are a symbol of arrogance and oppression.
Opposition to Israel is one of the fundamental policies of predominantly Shi’ite Iran, which backs Palestinian and Lebanese Islamic militant groups opposed to peace with the Jewish state.
Ahmadinejad insisted Iran had no intention of recognising Israel. “Whoever wants to negotiate with Iran should know that Iran will never recognise the Zionist regime (Israel),” he said to chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America”.
“Those who want to negotiate with Iran, should know that Iran is calling for obliteration of crime, aggression, occupation and the genesis of Zionist thinking from the world.”
The United States and Israel believe Iran’s nuclear programme conceals a military programme.
Iran has been hit by three rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006 for refusing to suspend its sensitive uranium enrichment work. France, like Washington, wants further international pressure on Iran to persuade it to stop the enrichment.
Tehran rejects Western allegations that it has secret plans to build atomic weapons and refuses to suspend what it says is a civilian nuclear energy programme.
Ahmadinejad said Iran would never yield to international pressure to abandon its nuclear activities. “Iran will not give up its obvious right (to nuclear technology) even one iota,” he said.