TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's foreign minister on Tuesday called the leader of Israel a liar who requires deception to promote his policies, saying Iran will not allow him to influence future talks with world powers about Tehran's disputed nuclear activities.
The remarks by Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York were broadcast on Iranian state TV hours before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to speak to the United Nations General Assembly.
They come a day after Netanyahu implored President Barack Obama to keep punishing sanctions in place against Tehran — and even tighten them if the Islamic republic advances its nuclear programs while negotiating with the U.S.
"This is his nature, to lie... Over the past 22 years, the regime, Israel, has been saying Iran will have nuclear arms in six months," said Zarif. "The continuation of this game, in fact, is based on lying, deception, incitement and harassment." He also called Netanyahu the "most isolated individual" in the U.N.
Iran and Israel see each other as arch enemies. Tehran does not recognize the Jewish state, and supports anti-Israeli militants like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.
Israel has threatened to strike Iranian nuclear installations that the West suspects have a military dimension. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is aimed at peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment.
Over the years, Israeli officials have mentioned various timeframes for how close Iran is to developing a military nuclear capability. In his address at the U.N. last year, for instance, Netanyahu said Iran would enter the final phase of enrichment by mid-2013. Israel has since backed away from that assessment. Israeli officials say the changing assessments are the result of Israeli and international pressure that have forced Iran to slow its efforts.
Later on Thursday, Zarif said that talks between Iran and world powers planned for later in October should peacefully resolve the nuclear issue, despite pressures from Israel.
"We know that Netanyahu and hard-liners in the U.S. are very concerned," he wrote on his Facebook page. "But we do not allow Netanyahu to decide the future of our talks." He said a majority of Americans now prefer to settle the nuclear issue through talks although they preferred a military option months ago.
Also on Tuesday, Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham accused Israel of lashing out at Iran because of the effectiveness of its outreach to the United States.
"The pressure by the Zionist regime is because of its isolation, and the fact that that Iran's policy has been accepted on a global level," Afkham said at a regular media briefing in Tehran. "Zionists will apply pressure in various fields and their propaganda will continue," she added.
She said the White House should resist calls for war against the Islamic Republic, and that the U.S. was currently undergoing "a test to prove to what extent it can resist the war mongers."
"We expect U.S. officials to have a realistic attitude toward the great Iranian nation and to address it with respect," she added.