Hassan Rowhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 (Photo: AP)
Israeli officials on Wednesday brushed aside Iranian President Hassan Rowhani's condemnation of the Holocaust as insufficient, saying he ought also to have condemned those who deny the Nazi genocide.
Rowhani told CNN, after addressing the UN General Assembly late on Tuesday, that the extermination of Jews in World War II was "reprehensible," in a new sign of a radical change by the Tehran government.
Rowhani's predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a strident critic of Israel and repeatedly questioned the Holocaust.
"It's true that (Rowhani) didn't deny the Holocaust, but he didn't condemn those who have denied it, such as his predecessor and other Iranian leaders," Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israeli public radio.
Deputy foreign minister Zeev Elkin asked during an interview on Israeli military radio: "What has this come to? It's enough to simply recognise that the Holocaust took place to be considered enlightened and cultivated?
"But the Iranian spiritual leaders who've denied the Holocaust are still in place," Elkin said.
Rowhani told CNN that "any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis created toward the Jews, is reprehensible and condemnable."
"Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews we condemn. The taking of human life is contemptible," he said, according to the US broadcaster's translation.
"It makes no difference whether that life is Christian, Jewish or Muslim. For us it is the same," added Rowhani, who gave his first speech at the United Nations General Assembly earlier Tuesday.
However, the president also implicitly criticised the creation of Israel, an arch enemy of Iran's clerical regime, as a Jewish homeland.
The Holocaust "doesn't mean you can say Nazis committed crimes against a group so they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it," he said.
Rowhani's interview came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Iranian president of refusing to recognise the Holocaust.
"Just last week, Rowhani, like Ahmadinejad before him, refused to recognise the Holocaust as a historical fact," Netanyahu's office said ahead of the UN General Assembly.
"When Iran's leaders stop denying the Holocaust of the Jewish people, and stop calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and recognise Israel's right to exist, the Israeli delegation will attend their addresses at the General Assembly."