Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that Israel was "dying" and that people in the Middle East would destroy it if given the chance. His remarks coincided with the arrival of U.S. President George W. Bush in the Middle East to celebrate Israel's 60th birthday and try to energize peace efforts complicated by a corruption scandal that could topple Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Opposition to Israel is a fundamental principle in Shi'ite Muslim Iran, which backs Palestinian militants opposed to peace with the Jewish state. "The Zionist regime is dying," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in the northern city of Gorgan, referring to Israel. "The criminals imagine that by holding celebrations ... they can save the Zionist regime from death." "They should know that regional nations hate this fake and criminal regime and if the smallest and briefest chance is given to regional nations they will destroy (it)," said Ahmadinejad, who often rails against Israel and the United States.