Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Israel is dying and that its 60th anniversary celebrations are an attempt to prevent its ''annihilation.''
His remarks coincided with the arrival of US President George W. Bush in the Middle East to celebrate Israel's 60th birthday and try to revitalize peace efforts.
''The Zionist (Israeli) regime is dying,'' said Ahmadinejad during a speech in the northern Iranian city of Gorgan. ''The criminals assume that by holding celebrations ... they can save the sinister Zionist regime from death and annihilation.''
The hardline Iranian president used an Arabic word, ismihlal, that can also be translated as destruction, death and collapse.
"They should know that regional nations hate this fake and criminal regime and if the smallest and briefest chance is given to regional nations they will destroy (it)," said Ahmadinejad, who often rails against Israel and the United States.
Iran doesn't recognize Israel, and Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction. The threatening exchanges between Iran and Israel have intensified since 2005, when Ahmadinejad said in a speech that Israel will one day be ''wiped off the map.'' The Iranian leader has also alleged that the Holocaust was a ''myth.''
Last month, a senior Iranian army commander said Iran will respond to any military attack from Israel by "eliminating" it, in comments condemned by Washington.
Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, says it has developed ballistic missiles able to hit Israel and
US bases in the region.
Some analysts have speculated that Israel might attack Iran to stop its nuclear activities, which the West fears are a front for weapons development. Iran insists it wants nuclear technology only for electricity.
Washington says it wants a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear dispute but has not ruled out military action if that fails. Tehran insists it will not bow to Western pressure.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report