Rouhani Israel remark shows his 'true face'

2013-08-02 14:08
Hassan Rouhani (File, AP)

Hassan Rouhani (File, AP)

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Jerusalem - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised anti-Israeli comments on Friday by Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani, saying he was showing his true colours.

"The true face of Rouhani has been revealed earlier than expected," Netanyahu said in a statement.

"Even if the Iranians work to deny these comments, this is what the man thinks and reflects the regime's plans," he said.

Rouhani said Israel was a foreign body that must be removed, and cast doubt on efforts to revive peace talks with the Palestinians.

"The Zionist regime is a wound inflicted for years on the body of the Muslim world that must be cleansed," Rouhani told reporters attending annual Quds Day rallies, in remarks reported by media.

His comments come a day before Rouhani, a moderate cleric by the standards of Iran's political system, is to assume the country's highest elected office.

New president, same goal

"The president's remarks should awake some of the world from its illusion" about Rouhani, Netanyahu continued.

"The president has changed in Iran but the goal of the regime remains to build a nuclear weapon to threaten Israel, the Middle East and peace and security throughout the world.

"We must not let a country that threatens Israel with destruction possess a weapon of mass destruction," he railed.

Iran's rejection of Israel as a state has been an unfaltering cornerstone of its foreign policy since the 1979 birth of the Islamic republic.

In an allusion to fresh peace talks between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Authority, Rouhani also charged that "Israel is continuing with its aggressive nature against the backdrop of an excuse for compromise".

The talks are providing the Israelis with "a good opportunity to project a peaceful appearance", he said.

Belligerent rhetoric

Iran staged massive rallies with speeches and sermons to mark the annual Quds Day, which supports the Palestinian cause.

State television broadcast footage of hundreds of thousands of people on the march nationwide, chanting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America".

Tensions between regional arch-foes Iran and Israel hit a high during the eight-year presidency of Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, marked by his repeated controversial remarks, including the denial of the Holocaust.

But even before Rouhani's comments, Netanyahu kept up Israel's belligerent rhetoric despite the Iranian presidency's change of hands. He has called Rouhani a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who would "smile and build a bomb".

Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear power, and Western powers accuse Iran of using its atomic energy programme as a cover for developing an atomic bomb. Tehran vehemently denies the charge.

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