Jawad Zarif
Jawad Zarif Reuters

Iran's Foreign Minister accused Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of peddling lies Sunday over Tehran's nuclear activities, and defended his country's "non-negotiable" right to enrich uranium.

Mohammad Jawad Zarif told ABC's George Stephanopolous that Netanyahu was wrong to allege that Iran's recent moves to cooperate with the West amount to little more than an insincere charm offensive.

Zarif insisted Rouhani in the past week had taken necessary first steps "towards removing the tensions and doubts and misgivings" Iran and the United States "have had about each other for the last 30-some years."

"A smile attack is much better than a lie attack," said Zarif, who speaks English well. "Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991, and you can check your records, that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon.

"We're 22 years after that and they are still saying we're six months away from a nuclear weapon," he added.

Zarif reiterated that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear bomb and does not need the military-grade uranium required for such, but he insisted that the Islamic state is entitled to pursue atomic energy plans "because that's our right."

He also said it was in the world's interest to allow Iran to pursue such activities as otherwise its nuclear scientists "could go on the black market, seeking employment opportunities."

But sanctions imposed by western governments in recent years are the major hurdle in the way of a deal being reached, he maintained.

"Sanctions are not a useful tool of implementing policy. And the United States needs to change that," Zarif said.

"Negotiations are on the table to discuss various aspects of Iran's enrichment program. Our right to enrich is non-negotiable," he added.

Zarif also condemned the Holocaust as a “heinous crime” and a “genocide,” dismissing as a poor translation the appearance of the word “myth” about the Holocaust on the Iranian Supreme Leader’s English website.

He was referring to the phrase “the myth of the massacre of Jews,” which appears in a translation of a speech from February 2006 by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamanei.

“The Holocaust is not a myth. Nobody’s talking about a myth,” Zarif told Stephanopoulos Sunday when asked about the quote. “If it’s there … it’s a bad translation, and it’s translated out of context… This is the problem when you translate something from Persian to English, you may lose something, as the film goes, ‘Lost in Translation,’ you may lose some of the meaning.”

“We condemn the killing of innocent people, whether it happened in Nazi Germany or whether it’s happening in Palestine,” Zarif said. “[The] Holocaust was a heinous crime, it was a genocide, it must never be allowed to be repeated, but that crime cannot be and should not be a justification to trample the rights of the Palestinian people for 60 years.”

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