UNITED NATIONS -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sharply criticized Iran's supreme leader and president, describing their latest verbal attacks on Israel as "offensive and inflammatory."
Many thousands of Iranians shouted "Death to America, death to Israel" during state-organized protests on Friday and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told them there was no place for the Jewish state in a future Middle East.
"You want a new Middle East? We do too, but in the new Middle East ... there will be no trace of the American presence and the Zionists," Ahmadinejad told worshippers at Tehran University in an event broadcast live on state television.
"Saving the existence of the Zionist regime (Israel) is a joint commitment by most arrogant Western governments," he added.
He called for Muslim unity to foil Western support for Israel, which he described as a "cancerous tumor" for its occupation of Palestinian land.
"The Secretary-General is dismayed by the remarks threatening Israel's existence attributed over the last two days to the Supreme Leader and the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran," the U.N. press office said. "The Secretary-General condemns these offensive and inflammatory statements."
"(Ban) believes that all leaders in the region should use their voices at this time to lower, rather than to escalate, tensions," it said in a statement issued Friday.
"In accordance with the United Nations Charter, all members must refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."
Israel prepared for Iran attack
Earlier this week Iranian media reported that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel would one day be returned to the Palestinian nation and would cease to exist.
The Iranian remarks came on the heels of a series of Israeli media reports suggesting that Israel could attack Iranian nuclear facilities ahead of U.S. presidential elections in November.
Israel, the United States and their allies in Europe and elsewhere believe Iran is developing atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
Earlier this week, Israel's outgoing Minister of Homefront Affairs Matan Vilnai insisted Israel was prepared for an attack by Iran.
“There is no room for hysteria as the homefront is prepared as it never was [in the past],” he said, Yeshiva World News reported.
“Today all elements of the system are clear as to their responsibilities and there will be no repeat of events in which mayors claim they were unaware of their responsibilities," he added. "I say this with a measure of modesty, but I had a central role in this process, backed by the prime minister and defense minister, and today, the homefront is in good shape."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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