Rouhani: Iran Seeks Better Relations With All Countries That Hate Israel
New York (AP) Addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the first time, newly installed President of Iran showed a softer side of the regime yesterday, preaching acceptance for everyone, provided they harbor animosity toward the Jewish state.
“The Islamic republic seeks engagement with the world, not discord,” said Hassan Rouhani to the annual gathering of world leaders, “and we can achieve that harmony if everyone accepts the premise that the Zionist regime is evil and must be obliterated.” Iran’s denies that its continued enrichment of uranium is intended to produce atomic weapons, while Israel and other Western countries have warned of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Until recently, the official tone of Iran’s rhetoric has been defiant. Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeatedly and unabashedly issued predictions and calls for Israel’s destruction. Iran has supported various armed groups that attack Israel, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But with Rouhani now in office, the Ayatollah-run country has tried to burnish its image, portraying the new president as a more accommodating personality. Rouhani was heavily involved in the early stages of Iran’s nuclear program.
“It’s a hopeful sign,” said Venezuelan delegate Jose Maria Cortes. “For years, the world got used to hearing nothing but opposition to Israel’s existence, and now Iran has completely altered its approach, and they simply oppose the existence of Israel and are working to threaten it any way they can.”
French diplomat François Martin shared the Venezuelan’s assessment. “France has watched with concern as Iran repeatedly rebuffed the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he recalled, “but Rouhani and his fresh approach mean that now we can expect only further obstruction, concealment, and, ultimately, a nuclear-capable regime that has made no bones of its desire to rid the world of one of its neighbors.”
American officials have remained wary, and echoed Israeli admonitions to observe Iran’s behavior, rather than its pronouncements. “The Obama administration is certainly in favor of open discourse,” said US ambassador Samantha Power. “But we reserve judgment on Iran until it demonstrates a genuine shift in its policies, not mere lip service to the idea of removing Israel from the map.” The US has led an international effort to levy economic sanctions on Iran, and Iran’s economy has suffered as a result. Power said the US has noted Iran’s strong relations with such reputable states as Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Syria.