Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gloated publicly on Thursday over the deaths of Israelis in a terror bombing in Bulgaria, and hinted that Iran was responsible for the attack.
Speaking hours after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had publicly blamed the bombing Wednesday at Bulgaria’s Burgas airport on “Hezbollah, directed by Iran,” Ahmadinejad described the attack as “a response” to Israeli “blows against Iran.”
“The bitter enemies of the Iranian people and the Islamic Revolution have recruited most of their forces in order to harm us,” he said in a speech reported by Israel’s Channel 2 TV (Hebrew). “They have indeed succeeded in inflicting blows upon us more than once, but have been rewarded with a far stronger response.”
He added: “The enemy believes it can achieve its aims in a long, persistent struggle against the Iranian people, but in the end it will not. We are working to ensure that.”
Ahmadinejad’s speech was interpreted in Israel as asserting that the Burgas bombing was a revenge attack for the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists, for which Iran has repeatedly blamed Israel.
However, a BBC Persian Service reporter subsequently rejected the translation of Ahmadinejad’s speech and said the Iranian leader had been speaking about sanctions. Bahman Kalbasi, a native Persian speaker who follows Ahmadinejad’s speeches closely, said any Persian speaker would confirm that the Iranian president “was in no way referring” to the previous day’s attack in Bulgaria.
Ahmadinejad’s remarks contrasted with a condemnation of the Burgas bombing by the Iranian Foreign Ministry earlier Thursday.
“The Islamic republic, the biggest victim of terrorism, believes terrorism endangers the lives of innocents… is inhumane and so strongly condemns” it, the Arabic-language television channel Al-Alam cited foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying. “Iran’s position is to condemn all terrorist acts in the world,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Iran’s state TV rejected accusations of Tehran’s involvement in the attack.
A commentary on the TV website called the claims by Netanyahu and others “ridiculous” and “sensational.”
The website described the Israeli charges as attempts to discredit Iran and its allies such as Syria.
Tehran’s mission in Sofia issued a statement saying that “the unfounded statements by different statesmen of the Zionist regime in connection with the accusations against Iran about its possible participation in the incident with the blown-up bus with Israeli tourists in Burgas is a familiar method of the Zionist regime, with a political aim, and is a sign of the weakness … of the accusers.”
The bombing is the latest in a string of attacks and plots around the world that Israel has blamed on Iran.
(Associated Press contributed to this report)