JERUSALEM (AFP) – The Israeli delegation will boycott Iranian President Hassan Rowhani's address to the UN General Assembly later Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced.
Netanyahu sees no change in policy from the new Iranian president sufficient to warrant abandoning the boycott observed by Israeli delegates for the speeches of his hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his office said.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu said that despite the charm offensive by the new Iranian president, the policies of the regime toward Israel have not changed.
"Just last week, Rowhani, like Ahmadinejad before him, refused to recognise the Holocaust as an historical fact.
"When Iran's leaders stop denying the Holocaust of the Jewish people, and stop calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and recognise Israel's right to exist, the Israeli delegation will attend their addresses at the General Assembly."
That was a reference to an interview aired by US broadcaster NBC last week in which Rowhani ducked a question about the World War II Nazi massacre of Jews, saying "I'm not a historian. I'm a politician."
But his foreign minister issued a clear condemnation of the Holocaust earlier this month, as Iran's new government seeks to move on from the controversy sparked by Ahmadinejad's hardline rhetoric.
"We condemn the massacre of Jews by the Nazis, and we condemn the massacre of Palestinians by the Zionists," Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his Facebook page.
Netanyahu said he did not believe Rowhani was ready to make any substantive change to Iranian nuclear policy and welcomed US President Barack Obama's call in his own address for more substance from Iran.
"I appreciate President Obama's statement that Iran's conciliatory words will have to be matched by action that is transparent and verifiable," Netanyahu said.
"Like North Korea before it, Iran will try to remove sanctions by offering cosmetic concessions, while preserving its ability to rapidly build a nuclear weapon at a time of its choosing."
Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only. Israel -- which has the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal -- insists it conceals a drive for a weapons capability and has warned repeatedly that it stands ready to take pre-emptive military action.