Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s former president, said Iran would accept the idea “a Palestinian state ready to live alongside Israel” if the elected Hamas government adopts such an approach.
"In my opinion, the democratically elected Hamas organization is willing to live alongside Israel if that honors it's rights, treat Hamas as the chosen government and stop turning on pressure. Iran will respect whatever the Palestinians will decide," he added.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Khatami, a reformist, distanced himself from the hardline statements expressed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his fundamentalist successor, who has called the Holocaust a myth and said Israel does not have the right to exist.
However, when asked if Iran could accept a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Khatami appeared more conciliatory. Although now a private citizen, he stressed his words represented Iran’s policy.
Khatami is the most senior Iranian politician to visit the US since the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Teheran, where Islamic fundamentalists held Americans for 444 days. He arrived for a 12-day, private speaking tour during which he will visit universities, speak at the UN and will participate in Islamic conventions. No formal government meetings have been scheduled.
'Holocaust – a historic fact'
Khatami referred to the Holocaust as a historic fact and said that Iran seeks lasting piece in the Middle East for Jews, Muslims and Christians as one but claimed that Iran’s policy towards Israel had not fundamentally changed since Ahmadinejad has replaced him but only their "interpretation, tactics and words might be different."
As in past, he criticized the Bush administration’s approach to the “war on terror”, and said the US was encouraging extremism and arousing hatred in the region. On the nuclear issue, he reiterated Iran’s rejection of US demands for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment as a precondition for talks.
When asked what he would say to President Bush if he was to meet him he replied:" I would tell him that the US with all it's might can bring democracy development onto the Middle East, that is if he co-works with the right people from the region and if the US policy ceases to threaten, and convert to mutual understanding."
Khatami stood firmly by the Iranian Leadership regarding Tehran's nuclear plan crisis and mentioned that Iran was not trying to build an Atom Bomb. "The Iranian government has never tried aspiring nuclear weapon that could be the source for wide-scale killing."
"Iran is very concerned about the possibility the US might lead a military attack upon his country." He concluded by saying:" I hope none of the sort will come to reality."