Between 2,000 and 5,000 people gathered outside the Iranian Embassy in Paris last night, to protest against comments by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week in which he said Israel should be “wiped off the map.”
The demonstrators included Jewish groups, anti-racism campaigners, and representatives of the Catholic church and the largest political parties. The Iranian government has summmoned Italy’s ambassador to express its displeasure over a similar rally being held today outside the Iranian embassy in Rome. Senior centre-left and centre-right politicians are set to attend. The demonstration has been organised by the conservative Italian broadsheet “Il Foglio” which is partly owned by the wife of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The paper’s director said: “President Ahmadinejad’s speech was frightening and full of hatred. It was not only directed against the policies of Sharon and the Israeli government but against the fact that Israel exists. They weren’t just words, they were a sign of a theocratic regime that seeks to export this message of hatred across Arab countries and around the world- and we must respond.” Yesterday, in Tehran, over 10,000 people marked the anniversary of the takeover of the US embassy in 1979. Officials here say the president’s comments represented no actual threat against Israel, suggesting the subsequent international outcry was meant to pressure Iran over its nuclear programme.