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Middle East

Iran's new president Rouhani calls Israel a 'wound' to be removed

Iran's president-elect, Hasan Rouhani, has called Israel an old "wound" that should be removed. The words come just ahead of his inauguration, which has been seen by the West as an opportunity to engage with Iran.

Rouhani, a moderate cleric by Iranian standards, on Friday heaped scorn upon Israel and poured doubt on the possibility of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed," Rouhani told reporters after taking part in a pro-Palestinian rally.

Rouhani added that, as far as talks about Palestinian territories were concerned, Israel was "continuing with its aggressive nature against the backdrop of an excuse for compromise." He said the recently resumed negotiations were providing the Israelis with "a good opportunity to project a peaceful appearance."

'A devastating storm'

There were similar sentiments in a Quds Day parting shot from the outgoing president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, according to the AFP news agency. The nominal head of the Iranian government for the past eight years said that there was trouble ahead for the Jewish state.

"I will inform you with God as my witness, a devastating storm is on the way that will uproot the basis of Zionism," Ahmadinejad was reported as telling crowds rallying for Quds Day, which celebrates solidarity with the Palestinian people. Huge rallies were staged in the Iranian capital, Tehran, to mark the day, with demonstrators denouncing the proposed peace talks set to take place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was optimistic Rouhani's inauguration offered an "opportunity" to clear an impasse over Iran's nuclear program. However, he said that "deeds not words" were what counted.

The West accuses Iran of trying to produce nuclear weapons under the guise of having a civilian atomic program, something that is denied by Tehran.

rc /tj (AFP, AP, dpa)