Iran praises Guenter Grass poem criticizing Israel

TEHRAN, Iran -- A senior Iranian official has praised Nobel literature laureate Guenter Grass for a poem criticizing Israel, saying he has beautifully carried out his human and historical responsibility.

In the poem published in European dailies earlier this week, Grass criticized what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear program and labeled the country a threat to "already fragile world peace" over its stance on Iran. He's since been accused of anti-Semitism.

But Iranian Deputy Culture Minister Javad Shamaqdari says in a letter that the 84-year-old poet's revelation of "truth may awaken the silent conscience" of the West. A copy of the letter was posted Saturday on the semiofficial Fars news agency.