DUBAI (Reuters) – Two days ahead of his inauguration as Iran’s next president, moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani called Israel a “wound” on the Muslim world that must be removed, and urged Iranians to support the rights of Palestinians, Iranian media reported on Friday.
The remarks echoed the strong anti-Israel sentiment of outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose denial of the holocaust and description of Israel as a “cancerous tumor” prompted international condemnation.
“The Zionist regime is a wound that has sat on the body of the Muslim world for years and needs to be removed,” Iran’s student news agency quoted Rouhani as saying at the annual Qods Day rally in support of Palestinian rights.
The United States and its allies suspect Iran of developing a nuclear weapons program. Tehran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes but Israel regards it as a threat to its existence and refuses to rule out military action.
Western countries hope that under a more pragmatic president diplomacy can lead to a deal to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment program and avoid any conflict.