Last updated: 24 September, 2013

Israel says Iran president offered “zero” in UN speech

Israel on Tuesday quickly denounced Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s speech at the United Nations as offering nothing new and called for sustained pressure on the clerical regime.

Yuval Steinitz, the head of the Israeli delegation that boycotted Rowhani’s UN General Assembly address, said the new Iranian leader tried “to cheat the world, and unfortunately many people are willing to be cheated.”

“We heard a lot of new rhetoric but zero new steps or even zero new commitments to meet the UN Security Council resolutions,” Steinitz, minister for strategic and intelligence affairs, told reporters.

“We didn’t hear … Rowhani regret or withdraw from previous denial of the Holocaust by previous Iranian leaders,” he said.

Rowhani, who swept to power in June on promises to ease tensions with the West and combat US-led sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy, said in his speech that his country posed no threat and was not pursuing nuclear weapons.

But he stood by Iran’s right to a civilian nuclear program and urged US President Barack Obama to ignore “war-mongering pressure groups” and make a deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will address the UN General Assembly next week, has refused to rule out a military strike against Iran’s contested nuclear program.

“The greater the economic and military pressure on Iran, the greater the chances of diplomacy to succeed,” Steinitz said.

“If this will be crystal clear to the Iranians that they have only one choice — between saving their economy and giving up the nuclear project, or saving the nuclear project and destroying their economy and maybe also suffering from a military atack — they might make the right decision,” he said.

Rowhani, in his speech, largely stayed away from the strident anti-Israel rhetoric of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who triggered outrage by questioning the Holocaust.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has stated that his country has never denied the Holocaust. Rowhani, asked in a recent US television interview about Ahmadinejad’s comments, replied that he was not a historian.