Page last updated at 19:45 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 20:45 UK

Peres blasts Iran in UN address

Shimon Peres at the UN
Shimon Peres says Iran is holding back Middle East peace

Israeli President Shimon Peres has told the UN that Iran is "at the centre of violence and fanaticism" in the world.

In an address to the UN General Assembly in New York, Mr Peres said Iran divided the Middle East and held back the chance of peace.

He warned that the Tehran leadership continued to develop enriched uranium and long-range missiles.

Iran is in breach of three UN Security Council resolutions calling for an end to its uranium enrichment programme.

Correspondents say the issue of Iran's nuclear programme will be a major challenge facing the next Israeli government, after the recent resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful ends.

Support for Hamas

Mr Peres told the assembly that the Islamic republic had "built a danger to the entire world".

Tehran combines long-range missiles and short-range minds. It is pregnant with tragedies
Shimon Peres
Israeli president

"Its quest for religious hegemony and regional dominance divides the Middle East and holds back chances for peace, while undermining human rights," he said.

"Iranian support for Hezbollah divided Lebanon. Its support for Hamas split the Palestinians and postpones the establishment of the Palestinian state."

Referring to Tehran's nuclear ambitions, he said the General Assembly and the UN Security Council bore "responsibility to prevent agonies before they take place".

"Tehran combines long-range missiles and short-range minds. It is pregnant with tragedies," he said.

"Their despicable denial of the Holocaust is a mockery of indisputable evidence, a cynical offense to survivors of the horror.

"Israel has shown that democracies can defend themselves. We do not intend to change."

He said the Iranian people "are not our enemies", and added: "Their fanatic leadership is their problem and the world's concern."

On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used his address to the UN to lash out at Israel and the US, saying "the Zionist regime" was on the path to collapse.

He said Iran would resist "bullying powers" trying to thwart what he called its peaceful nuclear ambitions.

Iran supported dialogue, he said, but would not accept "illegal demands".

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