A top Iranian cleric made a rare criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's verbal attacks on Israel on Wednesday, saying a foreign policy of "coarse slogans" was not in the national interest.
Hassan Rowhani, a former top nuclear negotiator who still holds several influential positions, said that Iran needed to show more flexibility and desire for dialogue in its dealings with the international community.
"Does foreign policy mean expressing coarse slogans and grandstanding?" Rowhani asked in a speech to a foreign policy conference in Tehran.
"This is not a foreign policy. We need to find an accommodating way to decrease the threats and assure the interests of the country."
His comments came a week after the latest verbal attack on Israel by Ahmadinejad, who described the Jewish state as a "dirty microbe" and "savage animal" in a speech to a public rally.
The president has already made calls for Israel to be wiped off the map and predicted it is doomed to disappear, provoking international uproar and sharpening tensions in Iran's nuclear standoff with the West.
Rowhani warned starkly: "If the international community thinks that a country wants to play troublemaker and eliminate others, it will not let the country do this and will confront it.
"We must act in such a way that the world understands that we are ready for more flexibility and more dialogue."
Rowhani headed the relatively moderate nuclear negotiating team that served under former president Mohammad Khatami before Ahmadinejad took power in 2005.
He still holds a string of important positions, including membership of the elite clerical body the Assembly of Experts, and is a representative of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Iran's supreme national security council.
Rowhani is considered a top lieutenant of Iran's pragmatic 1989-1997 president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was crushed by Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential elections.