Iran's Rouhani Calls Israel an 'Occupier, Usurper'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani calls on world leaders to "seize the opportunity" brought about by his election.

In preparation for his appearance next week at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Rouhani suggested the world seek "win-win outcomes" for issues such as terrorism and extremism, adding that his government is ready "to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition."

"Gone is the age of blood feuds," he wrote. "World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities."

Rouhani also told NBC's Ann Curry his country "has never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb -- and we are not going to do so." Iran, he said, would never seek "weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons."

Israel is the real problem in the Middle East, he said. It's an "occupier, a usurper government that does injustice to the people of the region…[and has] brought instability to the region with its war-mongering policies."

"We believe in the ballot box," Rouhani continued, saying Israel should not "allow itself to give speeches about a democratically and freely elected government."

"We do not seek war with any country," Rouhani claimed. "We seek peace and friendship among the nations of the region."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded with a warning not to be fooled by a man he calls "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

"The Iranians are creating media spin in order to keep the centrifuges spinning," Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office. "The test is not in Rouhani's words, but in the deeds of the Iranian regime, which continues to vigorously pursue its nuclear program at the same time that Rouhani grants interviews."

President Obama, meanwhile, told Spain's Telemundo network Tuesday that Iran's new president appears open to dialogue.

"There is an opportunity here for diplomacy," Obama said, "and I hope the Iranians take advantage of it."

"There are indications that Rouhani…is somebody who is looking to open dialogue with the West and with the United States in a way that we haven't seen in the past," Obama said. "And so we should test it."

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