Iran's Foreign Minister condemns the Holocaust on Facebook

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran's Foreign Minister said on Facebook that Teheran condemns the World War II Nazi massacre of the Jews, in stark contract to Holocaust denials by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"We condemn the massacre of Jews by the Nazis, and we condemn the massacre of Palestinians by the Zionists," Mr Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his Facebook page, where he published the text of an interview he gave to the Tasnim news agency.

Mr Zarif was also asked whether he wished Jews "Happy Rosh Hashanah" (New Year), and had had an exchange about the Holocaust on Twitter.

"I replied to a question from a person who appeared to be the daughter of the ex-speaker of the US House of Representatives" Nancy Pelosi, he wrote.

On his recently activated Twitter account, Mr Zarif wrote in English "Happy Rosh Hashanah," and Ms Christine Pelosi replied, thanking him.

"Thanks. The New Year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran's Holocaust denial, sir," she wrote.

Mr Zarif replied: "Iran never denied it (the Holocaust). The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year."

Teheran does not recognise Israel, and Mr Ahmadinejad's eight years in office were filled with anti-Israeli diatribes and denials of the Holocaust.

The controversial Mr Ahmadinejad was succeeded as president by Mr Hassan Rohani, who won a surprise election victory over five conservatives on June 14.

The former president's anti-Israel diatribes and Iran's controversial nuclear programme both contributed to its increased international isolation.

Mr Rohani's website on Thursday said he has tasked the Foreign Ministry with handling sensitive nuclear talks, in a possible signal of a less confrontational approach with world powers.

It was not immediately clear, but his announcement would seem to indicate that Mr Zarif, a moderate who has lived in the West and negotiated with it, would take on the role personally.

"Every year we wish Happy New Year to our Christian compatriots," Mr Zarif told Tasnim.

"We also have a Jewish minority that is represented in Parliament by one deputy," he said.

"We have nothing against Jews and Judaism, but we do not allow Zionists to present Iran as being anti-Semitic and bellicose in their propaganda so they can continue to repress the Palestinian people... and have their crimes forgotten," he added.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.