Iran’s foreign minister on Sunday reiterated his acknowledgement the Holocaust was not a myth, and condemned Israel for maintaining a nuclear arsenal when, he said, Iran has no intention itself of developing atomic weapons.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the “Holocaust was a heinous crime and should never be allowed to be repeated,” and dismissed reports that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s website featured a statement of Holocaust denial. Zarif claimed it was a misunderstanding over translation.
“This is the problem when you translate something from Persian to English,” he said during a Sunday morning interview with ABC’s “This Week” program as reported by the Huffington Post. “You may lose some of the meaning. This has unfortunately been the case several times over. The point is, we condemn the killing of innocent people whether it happens in Nazi Germany or whether it is happening in Palestine.”
Referring to relations with the US, Zarif said his country was willing to forgive the United States’ history with Iran but could not forget decades of distrust between the two nations.
Zarif said Tehran was open to negotiations with the United States over its nuclear program, but that Washington must end its crippling sanctions. Zarif said Iran was not developing a military nuclear program and has no desire for one.
“Having an Iran that does not have nuclear weapons is not just your goal, it’s first and foremost our goal,” he said during the TV interview on Sunday. Zarif also said Iran was willing to open its nuclear facilities to international inspectors.
“We have taken the first steps toward addressing an important issue both for Iran, the United States and the international community,” Zarif said, “a necessary first step toward removing the tensions and doubts and misgivings that the two sides have had about each other for the last 30 years.”
However, Zarif lashed out at Israel for attacking Iranian scientists while the Jewish state itself maintained an arsenal of nuclear weapons.
“We are not six months and not six years away from nuclear weapons,” he said. “Israel has 200 nuclear missiles. [Israel] is a source of disturbance and lies to the world and the US.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday flew to the United States for a meeting with President Barack Obama and to address the UN General Assembly. As he boarded his plane in Israel, Netanyahu said he was heading to the United Nations to “tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and the onslaught of smiles.”
Zarif scoffed at those concerns.
“Well, a smile attack is much better than a lie attack,” Zarif said.
He said Israeli leaders have been warning that Tehran is months away from having a nuclear weapon since 1991 and those fears have never been realized. Israel was still saying Iran is “six months away,” he said. “We’re not six months, six years, 60 years away from nuclear weapons. We don’t want nuclear weapons. We believe nuclear weapons are detrimental to our security,” said Zarif, a former nuclear negotiator.
“Israel can’t kill all of our scientists,” he added. “No one is talking about that. The US is against terror but it doesn’t respond to terror.”
Officials close to Netanyahu countered Sunday night that Iran would have long since attained nuclear weapons were it not for Israel having sounded the alarm and and kept up pressure on Iran over the years.
The Iranian foreign minister’s comments followed a sudden thaw in US-Iranian relations after decades as adversaries. Obama and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani spoke Friday by telephone, the first direct contact between the two countries’ leaders in three decades.