TEHRAN -- Iranian officials fired back against the dire warnings of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the United Nations, calling them “baseless and absurd allegations" against its "exclusively peaceful" nuclear program.
In a written statement, the Iranian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly complained that “an unfounded and imaginary graph was used to justify a threat” against Iran, an apparent reference to the drawing of a bomb that Netanyahu held up during his speech.
Netanyahu has called for world powers to draw a “red line” to prompt military action against Iran if it continues to move forward with its nuclear development program. During his Thursday speech, he argued that Iran could be poised to create an atomic weapon next year.
Iran's deputy ambassador to the U.N., Eshagh Habib, nonetheless warned in the statement that his country was strong enough to defend itself and would retaliate with full force if attacked. Habib asserted that Israel had a “totally dark record” of violence and criticized it for not signing an international nuclear disarmament treaty.
The Iranian statement went on to say that Israel had admitted to having atomic weapons. Israel has never publicly acknowledged having such weapons, though it is widely believed that it does.
Iranian newspapers are not printed on Fridays, but Iranian media quoted foreign news coverage of the Netanyahu speech on their websites, focusing on remarks that ridiculed and criticized his bomb diagram as confusing. Revolutionary Guards deputy commander Hamid Moqaddamfar said the "Zionist regime" would not dare to attack Iran and called rumors of such an attack "empty balloons," state media reported.
While leading Friday prayers in Tehran, Ayatollah Imam Kashani did not mention the speech but called for unity of all Iranian political factions against enemies.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to Tehran from the U.N. meeting in New York on Friday. While Ahmadinejad was in New York, a top press ad visor to the president was arrested and jailed back home in Iran on charges of publishing material "offensive to Islamic codes and public morality.” The Ahmadinejad aide, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, was first convicted last year but had appealed.
Upon returning to Tehran on Friday, Ahmadinejad called Javanfekr's detention “deplorable” and said he would look into the case, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Besides serving as a press advisor to Ahmadinejad, Javanfekr was also managing editor of the official news agency and head of IRAN Magazine, which ran an article critical of a requirement that women wear a head scarf. The case against Javanfekr has been seen as part of the clash between Ahmadinejad and other conservatives who accuse him of undermining Islamic values.
-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles