Iranian president says he hopes Sharon dies

Iran’s ultra-conservative president said tonight he hoped Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would die.

It was the latest anti-Israeli comment by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has already provoked international criticism for suggesting that Israel be “wiped off the map”.

“Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final,” he was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency.

Ahmadinejad was referring to Sharon, who as defence minister in 1982 directed Israel’s ill-fated invasion of Lebanon. An Israeli commission found him indirectly responsible for a massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps by Christian Phalangist soldiers.

Following Ahmadinejad’s comments, some of his audience shouted: “He is going to hell because of your brave remarks!”

Iran’s official media, including state-run radio and television, did not report Ahmadinejad’s remarks.

“Hopefully, others (criminals like him) will join him too,” ISNA quoted Ahmadinejad as telling a group of clerics in Qom, a holy city 80 miles south of the capital, Tehran.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack termed the remarks “hateful and disgusting”.

“And this is a man who wraps himself in the cloak of a peaceful religion, Islam, and yet you hear remarks like this coming from him.”

In the past two months, Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust a “myth” and said if Europeans insist it did occur, then they should give some of their own land for a Jewish state, rather than the one in the Middle East. He also called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”.

Meanwhile, the Headquarters for Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement, a shadowy group that has sought volunteers for attacks against Israel since 2004, described Sharon as an “enemy of God and people believing in God” and said his death would “fill the hearts of practising believers”.

“He is heading toward hell ... He will be punished for half a century of genocide in the Day of Resurrection,” said the group, which is backed by hard-liners within Iran’s ruling establishment.

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