January 18th, 2008 02:25 EST
Ahmadinejad: Israel not dare attack Iran
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Israel "would not dare attack Iran," after Israel said it tested a missile and warned against Tehran's nuclear program.
"The Zionist regime ... would not dare attack Iran," Ahmadinejad told Al Jazeera television in remarks translated into Arabic, referring to Israel. "The Iranian response would make them regret it, and they know this."
"It knows that any attack on Iranian territories would prompt a fierce response," he added.
Israel tested a missile on Thursday and urged the West to work harder to prevent "the appearance of a nuclear Iran."
Israel Radio said the missile tested was capable of carrying an "unconventional payload" -- an apparent reference to the nuclear warheads Israel is assumed to possess, though it has never publicly confirmed their existence.
Ahmadinejad said Israel was a "criminal regime" which would not gain legitimacy through threats. "It has lost its philosophical reason to exist," he said, adding that regional countries rejected Israel for occupying Palestinian territories.
The Iranian president also said Iran was also prepared for any possible U.S. military strike.
"But we are not worried about this kind of talk...because it is aimed at American domestic consumption as they need it in the upcoming presidential elections," he said.
NEW U.N. SANCTIONS?
Ahmadinejad said new United Nations sanctions against Iran would only discredit the U.N. Security Council as they would be based on political pressure, not legal issues.
"If the world realizes that the council takes illegal measures ... it would destroy the reputation of the council," Ahmadinejad said.
"It would better for them (world powers) to ... drop the issue from the Security Council's agenda," said Ahmadinejad, whose country has agreed with the U.N. atomic watchdog to answer outstanding questions within a month about past covert nuclear work that had military applications.
Germany said on Thursday a meeting of six big powers it is hosting next Tuesday aims to show international resolve not to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons technology.
The West fears Tehran is secretly seeking an atom bomb. Iran says its nuclear program is only for power generation. A recent U.S. intelligence estimate that it had stopped an active nuclear arms drive in 2003 has compounded disagreement among the six powers over the next steps in the stand-off.
(Editing by Jon Boyle)