by Hiedeh Farmani and Aresu Eqbali Fri Oct 5, 9:39 AM ET
TEHRAN (AFP) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday launched a new tirade against Israel amid growing tensions with the West, vowing to work to abolish the Jewish state and questioning the scale of the Holocaust.
Ahmadinejad said Iran would strive to liberate "all of Palestine" from Israeli hands, in a speech to mark the Quds day, where Iran holds its annual mass protest marches in solidarity with the Palestinians.
Tens of thousands of Iranians turned out for the march in central Tehran, carrying anti-Zionist banners, chanting "Death to Israel" and burning Israeli and American flags.
"The Palestinian people are standing firm. The Iranian people and other peoples will not stop until all of Palestinian territory is liberated," Ahmadinejad told the faithful at Tehran University.
"They (world powers) should not think that the Iranian nation and other nations in the region will take off their hands off the throat of the Zionists and their supporters."
Ahmadinejad provoked an international outcry shortly after his election in 2005 when he called for Israel to be "wiped from the map" and also described the Holocaust as a "myth".
He has since toned down his rhetoric but in this speech he reaffirmed his deeply controversial questioning of the mass slaughter of Jews in World War II and his suggestion that Israel could be moved to arctic North America.
"The Iranian nation hates killing and considers Hitler and the executioners of the World War II as black and dark figures," he said.
"But the Iranian nation has a question and as long as there is no clear and reasonable response to this question, it will remain.
"They have made the Holocaust sacred and do not allow anyone to ask questions. Under the pretext of the Holocaust they are allowed to commit whatever crime they like," he added.
"Europeans cannot tolerate the Zionists in their region and country, but they want to impose them on the people of the region... Give these vast lands of Canada and Alaska to them to create a country for themselves."
His graphic verbal assualt on the Jewish state came amid growing tensions over the Iranian nuclear programme.
Israel, widely believed to be the only nuclear armed power in the Middle East, has expressed alarm over Iran's nuclear drive, which the Jewish state and its main ally the United States believe is aimed at making an atomic bomb.
The United States and Israel have never ruled out the option of military strikes and some European states, led by France, want to impose their own economic sanctions against Tehran.
Iran however insists that its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating electricity for a growing population whose massive oil and gas reserves will eventually run out.
Israel was an ally of the imperial regime of last Iranian shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, developing close military and economic ties, but all this changed when he was ousted by the Islamic revolution in 1979.
Iran is also home to 25,000 Iranian Jews, the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel, and officials say this shows its stance is anti-Zionist but in no way anti-Semitic.
State television showed pictures of tens of thousands of people streaming through the streets in other demonstrations held in every major city up-and-down the country, repeatedly chanting the mantra of "Death to Israel".
Despite the heavily politicised nature of the Tehran demonstration, there was a festive mood with the numerous children present having their faces painted as cats and rabbits in entertainment laid-on by the municipality.
"I come every year because the Palestinians are helpless and they cannot defend themselves. I come here to here to attract the world's attention to their plight," said Somayeh Salim, 27.
She was carrying an Israeli flag in her rucksack: "I am going to burn it."