By NASSER KARIMIAssociated Press
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's foreign minister says he sent a message on Twitter saying "Happy Rosh Hashana," a local news website reported, in what is likely a small diplomatic step toward easing the hostilities between his nation and Israel.
Mohammad Javad Zarif told tasnimnews.com in an article published late Thursday night that he sent the message because Iran has a small Jewish community. But the message comes as Israel and Iran view each other with suspicion and contempt over Iran's nuclear program and former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denials that the Holocaust took place.
A subsequent Zarif's tweet read: "Iran never denied it. The man who perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year." It came after an account attributed to Christine Pelosi, daughter of U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, replied to Zarif's Rosh Hashana tweet with: "The New Year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran's Holocaust denial, sir."
In an interview with the website, Zarif said Iran would not let Israel use the Holocaust "to cover up their crimes."
"We never were against Jews. We oppose Zionists who are a minority," the foreign minister was quoted as saying. "We have condemned killing of Jews by Nazis as we condemn (the) killing and crackdown on Palestinians by Zionists."
The "Happy Rosh Hashana" message, celebrating the Jewish New Year, likely won't dramatically shift international relations between Iran and Israel. Iran does not recognize Israel and supports militant groups like Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas. The message does come, however, as President Hasan Rouhani, a moderate, slowly takes control of the country while trying to strike a more reconciliatory tone after Ahmadinejad's turbulent years in office. Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel remarks also prompted repeated international outcry - especially in the West.
The West suspects Iran's nuclear program has a military dimension. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear activities have peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment. On Thursday, Rouhani put the country's foreign ministry in charge of nuclear talks with world powers. Previously, Iran's top security body was in charge of the talks.
But apparently even Twitter diplomacy has its limits. Zarif's tweets come after officials in Iran's presidency denied that Rouhani had a Twitter account following a tweet that appeared to be the leader offering his own Rosh Hashana message.
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