TEHRAN, Iran – TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A radical cleric called Saturday for the creation of a "Greater Iran" that would rule over the entire Middle East and Central Asia, in an event that he said would herald the coming of Islam's expected messiah.
Ayatollah Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi said the creation of what he calls an Islamic United States is a central aim of the political party he leads called Hezbollah, or Party of God, and that he hoped to make it a reality if they win the next presidential election.
Kharrazi's comments reveal the thinking of a growing number of hard-liners in Iran, many of whom have become more radical during the postelection political crisis and the international standoff over the country's nuclear program. Kharrazi, however, is not highly influential in Iran's clerical hierarchy and his views do not represent those of the current government.
Kharrazi's comments were published Saturday in his newspaper, Hezbollah.
He also said its formation would be a prelude to the reappearance of the Mahdi, a revered ninth-century saint known as the Hidden Imam, whom Muslims believe will reappear before judgment day to end tyranny and promote justice in the world.
"The Islamic United States will be an introduction to the formation of the global village of the oppressed and that will be a prelude to the single global rule of the Mahdi," the Hezbollah newspaper quoted him as saying.
Besides Israel, he said the union would also destroy Shiite Iran's other regional adversaries, whom he called "cancerous tumors." He singled out secular Arab nationalists such as members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party in Iraq, as well as followers of the austere version of Sunni Islam practiced primarily in Saudi Arabia that is known as Wahabism.
Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab nations have watched Iran's growing regional clout with deep concern.
The growing voice of hard-liners like Kharrazi has deepened worries even if it appears unlikely such a divisive figure would win the 2013 presidential election.
Still, even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that he expects the government which follows his to be "ten times more revolutionary."