Iranian President Hassan Rohani (left) with newly appointed Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani (left) with newly appointed Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Photo by AFP
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AP
Kerry and Ashton in Vilnius, Lithuania, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Photo by AP

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday assailed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling him the "most isolated man in the UN."

Zarif's remarks, in an interview on Iranian television, come ahead of Netanyahu's speech before the UN General Assembly on Tuesday evening (Israel time).

Zarif also called the Israeli leader, who has said Iran's recent overtures to the West are a cover for its nuclear ambitions, a liar.

The foreign minister, who is representing Tehran at forthcoming talks with world powers in Geneva, said, "We have seen nothing from Netanyahu but lies and actions to deceive and scare, and international public opinion will not let these lies go unanswered," according to an AFP report.

"For 22 years, the Zionist regime has been lying by repeating endlessly that Iran will have the atomic bomb in six months," Zarif continued. "After all these years, the world must understand the reality of these lies and not allow them to be repeated."

Netanyahu is the "most isolated man in the UN," Zarif added.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she wanted to go to the October 15-16 talks with Iran with "the best possible atmosphere," but added that pressure could bring about results in the upcoming nuclear talks.

When asked if new sanctions should be imposed on Iran as talks about its nuclear program unfold, Ashton said, "I am not in the business of telling Congress what to do." The EU foreign policy chief was responding to a question at a Washington think tank about whether Congress, or others, should impose additional sanctions on Iran.

"I would like to get to Geneva with the best possible atmosphere to really have these negotiations," she said, referring to October 15-16 talks between Iran and six major powers: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

"And that means, in all sorts of ways, we need to show willingness and good faith to sit down and talk and expect the same in return," she added in an appearance at the Woodrow Wilson Center think tank.

Political directors from the six major powers - known as the P5+1 because they include the five UN Security Council permanent members and Germany - are to meet Iranian officials in Geneva to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

The United States and its allies suspect that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies this, saying its nuclear program is solely for peaceful, civilian purposes.

"It may be, at the end of those two days, that we don't make progress. But it may be ... that we do," Ashton said, saying her general approach to a negotiation is to keep pressure on.

"Pressure is there for a reason: it's to bring people to the talks in order to try and make progress," she said.

"I want to go to Geneva with that best possible atmosphere," she added. "In any thinking about that, those who are making the law here or those in control of the negotiations from the U.S. end ... (U.S. Secretary of State John) Kerry and his team will have to think about how to make sure that it's the best possible atmosphere."