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Ahmadinejad: Palestine statehood just 'step forward'

Aug. 26, 2011 1:27 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 27, 2011 11:51 A.M.)
TEHRAN (AFP) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday that the potential recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations should only be a "step forward" for the "full liberation" of Palestine.

His strong remarks calling for Israel's "disappearance" came as tens of thousands marched in the capital at a "Quds Day" rally, an annual regime-sanctioned demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians and against Israel, according to footage aired on state television.

The broadcast showed large crowds in major cities, carrying banners of "Death to Israel" and "Death to America."

"The recognition of an independent Palestinian government is not the ultimate goal ... [but] only a step forward for the full liberation of the Palestinian land," Ahmadinejad said at Friday prayers at Tehran University.

"The Zionist regime is the hotbed for germs and cancerous cells. If they persist even in a very small parcel of the Palestinian land, they will move again ... and harm everyone" in the region, he said in comments broadcast on television.

Ahmadinejad reiterated that the Holocaust was a "lie" which he said was used as an excuse for Israel's creation.

The hardline president, whose vitriolic attacks on the Jewish state and his dismissal of the Holocaust as a "myth" have drawn international condemnation, regularly rails against Israel.

"The goal of all believers and justice seekers should be focused on the disappearance of the Zionist regime," he said as the worshipers shouted "Death to Israel" and "Death to America."

He also warned Israelis that they "had no place" in the Middle East.

"Your era is over. It is in your interest to return to your homes ... You have no place in our region and among our nations."

The Palestinians are to formally submit their request for statehood to UN chief Ban Ki-moon on September 20, when world leaders begin gathering in New York for the 66th session of the General Assembly.

The decision comes after direct peace talks with Israel ran aground late last year in an intractable dispute over Jewish settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land.

Israel is strongly opposed to such a move, saying negotiations are the only way to resolve the conflict and establish a Palestinian state -- a position backed by Washington, which has announced its intention to veto the request.
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