WASHINGTON - Iran's new President Hassan Rohani describes Israel
as an "occupier" which has brought instability to the Middle East but insists that the Islamic Republic isn't seeking war with any country.
In the second part of an exclusive interview
with US broadcaster NBC's Ann Curry aired Thursday, Rohani also deflected a question on whether, like his predecessor, he believed the Holocaust was a "myth". But nonetheless said Tehran was not seeking war but rather peace in the region.
"We believe in the ballot box. We do not seek war with any country. We seek peace and friendship among the nations of the region," Rohani told NBC's ANN Curry.
The Iranian president branded Israel an "occupier" that "does injustice ... and has brought instability to the region with its warmongering policies."
|Rohani's interview with NBC|
Curry asked Rohani what was his response to comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
who had dubbed the allegedly moderate Iranian president a "wolf in sheep’s clothing."
He said Israel "shouldn't allow itself to give speeches about a democratically and freely elected government."
Rohani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
had infamously said the Holocaust was a myth. When asked about the Holocaust, he declined to say whether he also believed that and said: "I'm not a historian. I'm a politician. What is important to Iran
is that countries, people in the region grow closer and prevent aggression and injustice."
He also appeared to support lifting Iran's Internet censorship, saying: "We want the people, in their private lives, to be completely free."
"In today's world, having access to information and the right of free dialogue and the right to think freely is a right of all peoples, including Iranians," he said. "The people must have full access to all information worldwide."
As part of that effort, the government plans to set up a commission for citizens' rights in the near future, he said.
In the first part of the interview Rohani said Iran has "never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so. We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever."
Rohani noted he received a "positive and constructive" letter from Obama congratulating him on his election in June. In it, he said Obama raised some issues the US president was concerned about and that he had responded to the points Obama raised.
"From my point of view, the tone of the letter was positive and constructive," Rohani said. "It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday there were no current plans for Obama to meet Rohani at the UN General Assembly.
The interview aired just days before Rohani travels to New York for the UN General Assembly.
The Israeli Embassy in Washington, in a post on Twitter, called the interview part of Rohani's "charm offensive."
AFP and Reuters contributed to this report