Iran’s Rowhani says Israel a ‘wound’ on Muslim world

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Iran held massive anti-Israeli rallies on Friday, with President-elect Hassan Rowhani calling the arch-foe Jewish state a “wound” on the Muslim world a day before he takes office.

“In our region, a wound has for many years been sitting on the body of the Islamic world in the shadow of occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the dear Quds,” Rowhani said in remarks broadcast on state television.

“This day in actuality is a reminder that Muslims will not forget their historic right (to Quds) and will continue to stand against aggression and tyranny,” added Rowhani, considered a moderate cleric by standards of Iran’s political system.

Rowhani’s remarks highlighted his allegiance to Iran’s support for the Palestinian cause and rejection of Israel as a state, an unfaltering cornerstone of the Islamic republic’s foreign policy since its 1979 birth.

But they contrasted with those of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose eight years in office were filled with anti-Israeli diatribes and denial of the Holocaust.

A day before Rowhani assumes the country’s highest elected office, his remarks, originally misquoted by state media, drew fire from Israel.

The ISNA and Mehr agencies earlier quoted him as saying “the Zionist regime is a wound inflicted for years on the body of the Muslim world that must be cleansed.”

ISNA later acknowledged its mistake and corrected its story. Mehr altered its story, taking out the cleansing reference without giving any explanation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to denounce Rowhani, based on the initially reported remarks.

“Even if the Iranians work to deny these comments, this is what the man thinks and reflects the regime’s plans,” Netanyahu said, adding that Tehran’s objectives remained “to build a nuclear weapon to threaten Israel.”

Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which Western powers also suspect are aimed at building a bomb despite Iranian denials, have troubled relations Iran and world powers for the past decade.

Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear armed state in the Middle East, has repeatedly threatened to attack Iranian nuclear installations to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear arms.

On Friday, addressing a large crowd at Tehran University, Ahmadinejad warned that a regional storm was brewing that would “uproot” Israel.

“I will inform you, with God as my witness, that a devastating storm is on the way that will uproot the basis of Zionism,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast on state television.

In a parting shot, Ahmadinejad said Israel “has no place in this region,” provoking chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” from the crowd.

Ahmadinejad also accused Israel and its Western allies of fomenting discord in the region saying, “It was their dream to see the will of regional countries bent on destroying (Israel) diverted towards civil war.”

“Who is happy for what is happening in Egypt and Syria,” Ahmadinejad asked.

Ahmadinejad also claimed that, “The leaders of extremist Islamist groups who advocate conflict, behead Muslims... And kill women and children, are Zionists.”

Ahmadinejad did not elaborate.

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