Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke before worshippers at the end of a prayer service at an Istanbul mosque on Monday, and said the "Zionist regime's'" recent raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla is a major step towards its total annihilation, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The IRNA report demonstrates a more extreme tone than the one expressed earlier by Ahmadinejad in an interview to a French television station, in which he said the soldiers involved in the raid should be prosecuted for their "inhumane" conduct.
Ahmadinejad arrived in Istanbul to attend an international summit hosted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey is the Iranian leader's first stop in a series of visits around the world, possibly in an attempt to prevent a fourth round of sanctions against his country. He is also slated to visit China – a permanent UN Security Council member with a veto right.
“The materialist powers have imposed the Zionist regime resorting to military force against the world nations, particularly against the Middle East and regional nations, and they have thus been creating many unmatched crimes in the course of sixty some years of its history, that have been unprecedented in the history of mankind, the last of which has been invading the Gaza Peace Flotilla," the Iranian president told the crowd, which responded with applause and chanted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel".
Ahmadinejad thanked the government in Ankara and the Turkish people, and described Turkey and Iran as "brother nations" and said the two countries are the “standard bearers of humanity and moralities.”
He stressed that “everyone should know that the relations between the two countries are friendly brotherly and deep rooted today and that the two countries will stand side by side till the end of the line.”
“The future of the two countries is bright and their victory in the campaign against the oppressors is near, after which we will all attend the celebrations for our victory," he added.
Earlier, Ahmadinejad gave an interview to the French television station TF1, in which he criticized the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla. "What happened there was inhumane and intolerable. Nowhere on earth do humanitarian activists come under military attack," he said, adding that the soldiers who took part in the operation should stand trial over their "inhumane" conduct.
Dudi Cohen contributed to this report