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Iranian president-elect Rowhani misquoted on Israel

Iranian newly elected President Hasan Rowhani, places his hand on his heart as a sign of respect after speaking at a press conference in Tehran, June 17, 2013.

Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Causing an international uproar, Iran's president-elect Hassan Rowhani was misquoted on Friday by state media as saying arch-foe Israel was a "wound … that must be cleansed," state television video footage showed.

The cleric, flanked by his bodyguards was shown marching in Tehran alongside thousands of people marking Iran's annual Quds Day. This is commemorated on the last Friday of Ramadan to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemnation of Israel's control of Jerusalem; Al-Quds is that city's Arabic name.

In the clip, Mr. Rowhani actually said: "In any case, in our region, a wound has for many years been sitting on the body of the Islamic world in the shadow of occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the dear [al-]Quds."

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Mr. Rowhani, who takes office on Saturday, goes on to say: "This day in actuality is a reminder that Muslims will not forget their historic right and will continue to stand against aggression and tyranny."

In contrast to the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic rants issued by other Iranian leaders – most notably Mr. Rowhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – Mr. Rowhani's remarks could be seen as tempered.

The initial translation enraged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been skeptical of Mr. Rowhani's image as a moderating force in Iranian politics, previously calling him a "wolf in sheep's clothing."

"Rowhani's true face has been revealed earlier than expected," Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement Friday. "Even if they will now rush to deny his remarks, this is what the man thinks and this is the plan of the Iranian regime."

Mr. Netanyahu's office remained steadfast after it learned of the error. "We stand by what we say," said the Prime Minister's spokesman, Mark Regev. "The remarks attributed to him – we think, we are sure – that represents his true outlook."

Mr. Rowhani's actual remarks differ from earlier reports by Iranian news agencies, ISNA and Mehr, which had quoted Mr. Rowhani as saying "the Zionist regime is a wound inflicted for years on the body of the Muslim world that must be cleansed."

Mehr now appears to have taken out the phrase "that must be cleansed" from its original, without giving any explanation for the change.

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During another Quds rally, Mr. Ahmadinejad unleashed one of his signature tirades: "I will inform you with God as my witness, a devastating storm is on the way that will uproot the basis of Zionism," he said. Elsewhere in the speech, reports Al Jazeera, the outgoing president – who has questioned the Holocaust – reiterated his anti-Semitic theory that accuses medical companies of being run by Zionists who create viruses and spread them all over the world so they can drive up drug prices.

Also commemorating Quds, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, a staunch ally of Iran, emerged from hiding Friday to deliver his first major speech in years in his southern Beirut stronghold.

Mr. Nasrallah said eliminating Israel was in the interests of the Middle East, and the entire Islamic world. "Some might think that the elimination of Israel is a Palestinian interest," he said. "Yes, it is a Palestinian interest, but not just that. It is in the interest of the entire Islamic world, it is in the interest of the entire Arab world and it is also in the national interest for every country in the region."

Mr. Nasrallah added that Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomaini's definition of Israel as a "cancerous growth" was accurate, reported "As you know, tumours spread, and the only solution for this tumour is to uproot it."

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