Israel's prime minister has instructed Israeli diplomats to leave the UN General Assembly when Iran's new president, Hassan Rohani, addresses the gathering later Tuesday and also said the world "should not be fooled" by signs of moderation from Tehran.
In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
said that despite a new Iranian "smile offensive," the policies of the Islamic republic remain the same. He accused Rohani of refusing to recognize the Holocaust.
"When Iran's leaders cease to deny the Jewish people's Holocaust and call for the destruction of the Jewish state, the Israeli delegation will listen to its speeches. Despite Iran's new president's 'smile offensive', their policy remains unchanged – just last week Rohani… refused to recognize the Holocaust as a historical fact."
Netanyahu said the world "should not be fooled" by signs of moderation from Tehran, voicing deep skepticism about Iran's new outreach to the West in saying it is merely a ploy to ease international sanctions while secretly developing nuclear weapon.
"Iran thinks soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb.
"Like North Korea before it, Iran will continue to work to have sanctions removed in return for cosmetic concessions while it continues to preserve its ability to quickly build a nuclear bomb," Netanyahu said.
The prime minister noted he welcomed US President Barack Obama's efforts to engage Iranian President Hasan Rohani in dialogue but that Iran's conciliatory words must be matched by actions.
In his speech at the UN, Obama reached out to the Iranian president, as a possible force for positive change in relations with the West.
He lauded the "more moderate course" endorsed by Rohani, noting Rohani could be a partner in trying to break the impasse over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested," Obama told the General Assembly.
Nevertheless, Rohani did not attend a Tuesday lunch, where he could have run into his US counterpart Obama, a UN official said.
Amid intense speculation that Obama could meet the new Iranian leader on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, it seemed it would not happen over lunch. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was hosting the lunch for the leaders of the UN member nations.
Israel accuses Iran
of pursuing nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies. Israel fears that Rohani's signs of moderation will ease international pressure on the suspect Iranian nuclear program.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid
criticized the boycott of Rohani's address at the General Assembly by Minister Yuval Steinitz and Israel's Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor.
shouldn't be portrayed as a serial objector to negotiations, uninterested in peaceful solutions. We must make the Iranians be peace objectors. Leaving the UN Assembly is reminiscent of the ways Arab states behaved towards Israel," Lapid said.
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande urged Iran to make "concrete gestures" on its nuclear program.
"France expects Iran to make concrete gestures to show that it renounces its military nuclear program, even if it has a right to a civilian program," Hollande told the UN General Assembly.
"The question at hand is to know if these words can translate into actions, especially on the nuclear issue," Hollande said, adding that "for the past 10 years talks haven't gone anywhere," and that he intends to "stand firm" against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Hollande is scheduled to meet with Rohani later Tuesday.
AP, AFP contributed to this report
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