In a turn from his predecessor, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted not only that the Holocaust happened, but that the slaughter of 6 million Jews by Nazis during World War II was "reprehensible and condemnable."
But Rouhani said the atrocities committed against Jews do not give them the right to "usurp the land of another group and occupy it."
In an interview with CNN
after his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, Rouhani said the details of the Holocaust are something for historians to reflect upon.
"But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis created towards the Jews is reprehensible and condemnable," Rouhani said. "The taking of human life is contemptible. It makes no difference whether that life is Jewish life, Christian or Muslim," he added. "The taking of life is something our religion rejects."
But the creation of the modern state of Israel is also an act that should be condemned, Rouhani said. "There should be an even-handed discussion."
Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pressed the buttons of the West by giving credence to Holocaust deniers and saying the West used what he called a myth as an excuse to support "Zionists." The U.S. delegation, along with Israel and other countries, routinely walked out on Ahmadinejad during his U.N. addresses. Sometimes they skipped them entirely.
Rouhani, called more moderate by some, has attempted to create a better feeling with the West, but many are skeptical of his motives.
"I would like to say to American people, I bring peace and friendship from Iranians to Americans," Rouhani said in English in the interview, adding in Farsi that he wishes Americans "a good time, and good times ahead."
Earlier this month, Rouhani tweeted a Rosh Hashanah blessing:
See the CNN video below:
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