Iran strongly condemned presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton for threatening to attack and "totally obliterate" the country if it uses nuclear weapons.
Late Wednesday, Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, called an April 22 statement on ABC television by the New York senator, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, "provocative, unwarranted and irresponsible" and "a flagrant violation" of the U.N. Charter.
Clinton was asked by ABC News' Chris Cuomo in an interview that aired on "Good Morning America" what she would do if she wins the White House and Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, according to the ABC News Web site.
"The question was, 'If Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, what would our response be?' And I want the Iranians to know that if I'm president, we will attack Iran" to retaliate against an Iranian nuclear hit on Israel, Clinton said.
"In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."
Danesh-Yazdi's letter used a partial quote that did not mention an attack on Israel. It said Clinton "unwarrantedly and under erroneous and false pretexts threatened to use force against the Islamic Republic of Iran."
The Iranians sent the letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and asked that he circulate it to the Security Council.
The council has imposed three rounds of gradually tougher sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran insists it is enriching uranium to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but the U.S., key European nations and other countries suspect Tehran's real motive is to eventually produce nuclear weapons.
In the letter, Danesh-Yazdi said "Iran is a leading nation in rejecting and opposing all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons." He added that Iran has repeatedly declared "that nuclear weapons as the most lethal and inhumane weapons have no place in the defense doctrine of the country."
Iran has also campaigned to make the Middle East a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone since 1974, he said.
"Moreover, I wish to reiterate my government's position that the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention to attack any other nations," Danesh-Yazdi said. "Nonetheless ... Iran would not hesitate to act in self-defense to respond to any attack against the Iranian nation and to take appropriate defensive measures to protect itself" as authorized under the U.N. Charter.