Iran's president said Thursday he hoped for the death of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the latest anti-Israeli comment by a leader who has already provoked international criticism for suggesting that Israel be "wiped off the map."
"Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency.
Ahmadinejad was referring to Sharon, who as defense minister in 1982 directed Israel's ill-fated invasion of Lebanon. An Israeli commission found him indirectly responsible for a massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps by Christian Phalangist soldiers.
Iran's official media, including state-run radio and television, did not report Ahmadinejad's remarks about Sharon.
"Hopefully, others (criminals like him) will join him too," ISNA quoted Ahmadinejad as telling a group of clerics in Qom, a holy city 80 miles south of the capital, Tehran. He spoke a day after the 77-year-old Sharon suffered a massive stroke and underwent surgery.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack termed the remarks "hateful and disgusting."
"And this is a man who wraps himself in the cloak of a peaceful religion, Islam, and yet you hear remarks like this coming from him," McCormack said. "This regime has isolated the Iranian people from the rest of the world in a matter of months — through its actions and its statements."
The statement attributed to Ahmadinejad ultimately "is sadly not surprising given what we have seen come out from this president before," McCormack said.
In the last two months, Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust a "myth" and said if Europeans insist it did occur, then they should give some of their own land for a Jewish state, rather than the one in the Middle East. He also called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."