In a major break from his predecessor, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani on Wednesday condemned the Holocaust as a crime against humanity in a CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour.
“I am not a historian and when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust it is the historians that should reflect,” Rouhani said during his visit to New York, choosing not to relate to the scope of the Holocaust.
“But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis created towards the Jews, is reprehensible and condemnable,” CNN translated the newly elected president saying.
President @HassanRouhani tells me he accepts the Holocaust – was a great crime against Jews by the Nazis. Condemns that and all genocides.
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) September 24, 2013
Earlier in the evening, before the interview aired on the US cable news channel, Rouhani spoke at length about “violence and extremism” and his country’s nuclear program before the UN General Assembly.
Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeatedly during his eight-year, two-term presidency, derided the mass murder of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany as a “myth” and a “great deception of the Holocaust” generated by Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli delegates to walk out of the UN General Assembly during Rouhani’s speech. He later defended his decision, saying their presence “would have given legitimacy to a regime that does not accept that the Holocaust happened and publicly declares its desire to wipe Israel off the map.”
As Israel’s prime minister, he said, “I won’t allow the Israeli delegation to be part of a cynical public relations charade by a regime that denies that Holocaust and calls for our destruction.”
Rouhani said in English in the interview that “I would like to say to [the] American people: I bring peace and friendship from Iranians to Americans.” The Iranian president reiterated that he would like to take serious confidence-building steps with the United States, but that such a detente would require efforts by both sides.
The US broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980, shortly after 52 American diplomats were held hostage in the US embassy in Tehran for over a year.