Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday endorsed Hassan Rohani as president. The moderate cleric, who was elected in mid-June to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is to be sworn at a ceremony in Parliament on Sunday. Rohani had campaigned against the isolationist policies under Ahmadinejad's eight-year term. He has pledged radical reforms to foreign policy and an ailing economy. Both are tied to Tehran's drawn-out dispute with the West over its nuclear program.
On Friday, Iranian state television said reports quoting Rohani as calling Israel a "wound that ... needs to be removed" were distorted.
"News agencies distort Iran pres-elect Rohani's remarks on Quds Day," said a breaking news caption on Press TV.
Earlier that day, Iranian news agencies reported that cleric Rohani had described the Zionist regime as "a wound that has sat on the body of the Muslim world for years and needs to be removed."
The quote by Press TV was later corrected to: After all, in our region, there's been a wound for years on the body of the Muslim world under the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the beloved [city of] al-Quds."
Responding to the reports, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office stated, "We are standing 100% by our [earlier] statement regarding Rohani. We knew the Iranians would hurry to deny it, but we are not retracting our statement."
Rohani won a landslide victory in Iran's June 14 presidential election. He replaces Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday. The incoming president has pledged to follow a "path of moderation" and promised greater openness over Iran's nuclear program, which has placed it at odds with the West.
Netanyahu had been quick to respond to Rohani's originally-reported comments, saying they revealed the true face of Iran's president-elect, often considered a moderate reformer.
"Rohani has shown his true colors sooner than expected," Netanyahu said in Jerusalem.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now