Defying a warning by the U.N. secretary-general against inflammatory remarks, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran said Monday that Israelis had no historical roots in the Middle East and that the existence of Israel was just a passing phase in the region's long history.
Ahmadinejad, who arrived in New York on Sunday for the annual General Assembly meeting, made the remarks in a breakfast session with selected members of the media.
Later Monday he spoke at the United Nations; he will speak there again Wednesday.
At the breakfast meeting, he said that the Israelis had been around the region for only 60 or 70 years, in contrast to the Iranians, whose civilization has existed for thousands of years.
"They have no roots there in history," Ahmadinejad said of the Israelis, according to Reuters. "They do not even enter the equation for Iran."
The Iranian president, known for incendiary language against Israel, is in the last nine months of his final term in office, and there had been widespread expectations he would use his remaining appearance at the General Assembly to excoriate and provoke Iran's enemies, who suspect Iran is developing the ability to make nuclear weapons. Iran has repeatedly denied its nuclear energy program is for military use.