Holocaust ‘reprehensible’, but Jews appropriated lands - Rouhani
President Barack Obama and Iran's new leader made very tentative moves Tuesday to end decades of hostility between their countries but could not break the deadlock enough to organize a meeting. Obama said an accord was possible if Iran ends concerns over its nuclear program. The new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani called on Obama to ignore "war-mongering pressure groups" to make a deal.
He said he was ready for "time-bound and results oriented" talks.
Obama said mistrust between the United States and Iran has "deep roots" and that Tehran's "pursuit of nuclear weapons" would remain a US foreign policy priority. But a "meaningful agreement" between the arch-rivals is possible, he added.
"The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested," Obama said, adding that he had ordered US Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue diplomatic efforts. Kerry and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet for the first time at international talks on Iran's nuclear program on Thursday.
Rouhani said Iran poses "absolutely no threat to the world," in his speech and condemned international sanctions against Iran. If Obama rejects "the short-sighted interest of warmongering pressure groups, we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences," the Iranian leader said, insisting that his country's nuclear drive is "exclusively peaceful." "Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions," Rouhani said.
In a later television interview, Rouhani also condemned the holocaust, in another sign of change by the Iranian leadership. "Any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis created toward the Jews, is reprehensible and condemnable," Rouhani told CNN.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still blasted Rouhani for making what he described as a "cynical speech that was full of hypocrisy." Netanyahu will speak at the UN next Tuesday.
There had been speculation that Obama and Rouhani could meet at a lunch organized by UN leader Ban Ki-moon. Rouhani was not present however. A senior US official said that an encounter had proved "too complicated" for the Iranian side.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Tuesday welcomed a "new tone" from Tehran ahead of a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani but demanded "substantial action" on its controversial nuclear program.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all states to stop sending weapons to Syria. "I appeal to all states to stop fueling the bloodshed and to end the arms flows to all parties," Ban said as he opened the UN summit, which is being attended by more than 130 heads of state and government.
Meanwhile, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff used her speech ahead of Obama to launch a blistering attack on the United States for spying on her country. "The argument that illegal interception of information is allegedly intended to protect nations against terrorism is untenable," Rousseff told the assembly, though Obama was not present. Rousseff last week canceled a long planned state visit to the United States in anger at revelations from fugitive former CIA contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency spied on her email.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the Nazis committed a "reprehensible" crime against the Jewish people, when he was asked in a television interview whether he accepted that the Holocaust occurred.
"I am not a historian and when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust it is the historians that should reflect," Rouhani told CNN during a visit to New York where he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly.
"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," he said, according to CNN's tranlation of his comments.
Israeli officials had sharply criticized Rouhani, a moderate cleric who has made diplomatic overtures to the West, for failing to renounce rhetoric by his hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that expressed doubt about the Holocaust.
Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world President Hassan Rouhani said in his address to the UN General Assembly. At the same time, militarism of 'some players' and generalization of western values, he says, poses a true danger for the world security.
Rouhani stated that nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s security doctrine in a sweeping speech, which also condemned the use of drones in the Middle East, as well as the enforcement of harmful and “violent” sanctions on Tehran.
"These sanctions are violent, pure and simple," he told the assembly, comparing them to the punitive measures against Iraq under late Saddam Hussein rule. "The negative impact is not nearly limited to the intended victims of sanctions," which means normal people, not political elites, ended up suffering because of these sanctions, Rouhani added.
The Iranian leader also addressed President Obama’s earlier UN address, and expressed hope for implementing a framework to manage relations with the US while expecting a “consistent voice” from Washington.
Mr. Rouhani called for the UN to enact an environment in which peace would prevail over what he termed coalitions for war, likely in reference to ongoing conflict over Iran’s nuclear program.
Among other topics touched on by the Iranian President in an often accusatory speech was the alleged "assassination" of his country's nuclear scientists, though he also indicated that his country was ready to immediately engage in result-oriented talks over its nuclear program, which Israel has consistently believed to be aimed at producing weapons.
Despite what some analysts believe has been a marked change in Iran's posturing since the election of Mr. Rouhani, who is thought to be more of a reformist than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Israel largely signaled its rejection, with the country's delegation walking out of the UN chambers during the Iranian President's address, as has been the custom in prior UN General Assemblies.
A potential encounter at the United Nations between US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani failed to take place on Tuesday as the Iranians indicated it was too complicated, senior Obama administration officials said.
"There will be no meeting," one official said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters that Obama had been open to a meeting with Rouhani while both were in New York for UN activities but the Iranians were not ready to have an encounter at the presidential level.
There had been encouraging signs that the US and Iranian presidents would have the highest level contact since before Iran's 1979 revolution. Both presidents have talked about a diplomatic opening to try to settle Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Officials stressed that any encounter between the two men would not have involved negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon.
Diplomacy will now go forward between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, the officials said.
President Obama says the UN must enforce the ban on chemical weapons in Syria. "An agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic initiative", Obama said. He doesn't believe military action can achieve a lasting peace and said that Syrians themselves should decide who runs Syria.
The evidence is "overwhelming" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians, Obama claimed once again, although this has not been proven.
"The notion that Syria can somehow return to a prewar status quo is a fantasy," Obama said. "It's time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting that Bashar Al-Assad remains as Syria's president will actually ensure their greatest fears: It would increase the amount of space where violent extremists can operate", he said.
“The crisis in Syria and the destabilization of the region goes to the heart of the broader challenges the international community must now face,” Obama said.
Obama talked about the crisis in Syria and the "stillborn" peace process. The conflict "goes to the heart" of a bigger issue: "How should we respond to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa?" That includes "conflicts between countries and conflicts within them".
"I welcome the influence of all nations that can bring about a peaceful resolution of the Syrian civil war," Obama said.
Expanding on the theme of moving from a perpetual war footing, Obama says that "the world is more stable (than it was) five years ago." He became president nealy five years ago, you'll note. But dangers remains, he acknowledges, citing the current hostage crisis at a Kenya mall, a recent suicide bombing in Pakistan, and strife in the Middle East and North Africa.
On the eve of the upcoming Un General Assembly in New York, which expects to host almost 200 countries, CNN has compiled a list of issues expected to be discussed at this global convention.
First of all, it is obviously the Syria issue, which has been a topic of fierce discussion for two years with no visible outcome. It becomes all the more important now that the use of chemical weapons had been confirmed.
Ideally, the U.N. Security Council would agree on the solution over Syria issue. Nevertheless, the whole problem looks like a boxing match with unlimited number of rounds, with countries like the United States and France in one corner, who want Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down or to use force if he doesn’t, and Russia and China in the other, who oppose any forceful solution whatsoever.
The second question on the agenda is Iran. Now that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is gone, with new president, Hassan Rouhani, things are different. "We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart," Rouhani wrote in The Washington Post last week, which statement is seen by the U.S. officials with skepticism, as they’d rather Iran showed by actions – not talking – its willingness to halt nuclear enrichment.
However, Iran’s appealing stance has provoked speculation that Rouhani and U.S. President Barack Obama will meet at the General Assembly, which might be the first meeting between American and Iranian presidents since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. Though still not on schedule, the meeting hasn’t been ruled out, either.
The number three on the UN’s list is Mideast dilemma, that is, whetherPalestinians get a step closer this year to becoming a recognized member state?
Last year, Palestinians won recognition from the U.N. General Assembly as a non-member state, which status gave them access to U.N. bodies. This advance made Israel concerned about Palestinians possibly seeking membership in agencies such as the International Criminal Court, thus acquiring the right to press for war crimes charges against Israel.
Among other things, on this years’ agenda are talks on the "permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources."
The fourth position on the list is devoted to the plausible tensions US might have while convening with its Latin American counterparts.
As Brazil had major falling out with the White House on the issue of the US electronically spying on the Brazilian president’s communications, the two countries came to a decision that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s visit to Washington should be put off to a later date.
As far as Venezuela is concerned, last week it accused the States of refusing to grant its Airforce 1 permission to fly through US airspace to China. The Department of State however, said it did grant the permission for the plane to fly over Puerto Rico.
Finally, it is about participation, as not all the 193 countries are to be represented in New York.
First of all, Kenya recalled its envoy, Macharia Kamau, as Deputy President William Ruto has been on trial at the International Criminal Court, accused of crimes against humanity. The UN court accuses Ruto of being behind the attacks killing more than 1,000 people after Kenya's disputed presidential election almost six years ago, though Ruto denies it.
Sudan's president is the next one the International Criminal Court wants for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and for his alleged role in a five-year campaign of violence in Darfur.
However, President Omar al-Bashir might still attend. "As I've said numerous times, he has submitted a visa application. We're not going to sort through the considerations underway right now on that application publicly," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Friday. However, there’s little the U.S. can do, because, as the host country, it's obligated to grant visas to heads of state, wanted or not.
Voice of Russia, AFP, Reuters, RT, CNN