News Column

Iran Backpedals Rowhani Anti-Israel Comments

August 2, 2013

Iranian state media Friday said that remarks calling for the destruction of Israel attributed to president-elect Hassan Rowhani had been "wrongly reported."

In widely reported remarks, state-run ISNA news agency said that Rowhani, considered a moderate reformer, had called Israel "an old wound that must be eliminated."

But news channel Press TV, also state-run, later said the comments had been "distorted" and published a video clip of the interview that showed Rowhani's comments had been more moderate.

"In our region, there's been a wound for years on the body of the Muslim world under the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the beloved al-Quds (Jerusalem)," Press TV quoted Rowhani as saying in the video.

ISNA subsequently corrected its report.

Rowhani - who will be inaugurated at the weekend - was interviewed on the sidelines of al-Quds Day, an annual event organized by the Iranian government on the last Friday of Ramadan to express solidarity with the Palestinians against Israel.

The ISNA had quoted him as saying: "The Islamic world must show unity against the Zionist regime, since this regime is an old wound that has lain for years in its body and must be eliminated."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the remarks reported by ISNA.

"Rowhani has shown his true colours sooner than expected," Netanyahu said in Jerusalem. "This is what the man thinks and it is the action plan of the Iranian regime."

Non-recognition of Israel has been part of Iran's foreign policy since the 1979 revolution. Politicians, including outgoing hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, frequently call for Israel to be destroyed.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has on past occasions referred to Israel as a "cancerous tumour" to be "removed from the region."

Iran is under UN sanctions over suspicions it is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear power programme. Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat.

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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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