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Israel warns US over Iran’s ‘charm offensive’

AFP

Israel has raised the alarm over what it says is Iranian President Hassan Rohani's deceitful efforts to convince the United States and the world that it wants to reach a deal over its controversial nuclear programme.

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Israel has warned the United States and the international community over what it believes is the hypocrisy of newly-elected Iranian president Hassan Rohani, who this week has grabbed much of the world’s attention at the annual UN General Assembly with diplomatic overtures.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly snubbed Rohani’s address Tuesday, in which the Iranian leader said his country poised no threat to world peace, as “cynical”.

The Israeli embassy in Washington called into question Rohani’s sincerity via its Twitter account. It even published a mock profile of Rohani on the LinkedIn website in which he brags about duping the West.

Responding to both praise and criticism over Rohani’s fake profile, the embassy later wrote on its website:

“Since his election, Iranian President Hassan Rohani has embarked on a public diplomacy campaign to relieve sanctions while continuing to advance Iran's nuclear programme. In recent years, when Iran embarked on the diplomatic track, its nuclear programme did not stop. In fact, it accelerated…”

Landmark US-Iran meeting

On Thursday evening, the United States and Iran were part of a historic high-level meeting at the UN. US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif participated in a foreign minister’s gathering to discuss Tehran's nuclear programme - which Western powers and Israel suspect is aimed at producing weapons.

The previous day, Rohani told the US media he wanted a deal on the nuclear issue with the United States within months.

Earlier in the week, the Iranian president also won plaudits for an interview on CNN in which he condemned the Holocaust - a marked change from his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rhetoric.

Rohani charges back

Rohani's message is a “real diplomatic challenge for Israel,” Professor Uzi Rabi, an Iran specialist at Tel Aviv University, told the AFP news agency. “The last time Netanyahu was at the United Nations, it was much easier for Israel to argue on Iran.”

Iran has also seized the opportunity of its increased profile at the UN General Assembly to admonish arch-foe Israel, with Rohani challenging Israel on Thursday to join an international treaty banning the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Jewish state, long-suspected of having a secret nuclear arsenal, is the only Mideast nation that has failed to sign the treaty, Rohani noted.

In reaction to Rohani's challenge, Yuval Steinitz, the head of the Israeli delegation at the UN General Assembly, said Rouhani was trying to divert attention from its nuclear ambitions by attempting "to smile his way to the bomb."

The war of words between Israel and Iran will likely escalate on October 1, when Netanyahu finally takes the stage at the UN General Assembly.

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