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White House reiterates ‘opportunity’ for Iran talks after Rohani inauguration

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The inauguration of a new Iranian president is an opportunity to address international concern over Iran’s nuclear program, the White House said.

The White House statement Sunday, a day after Hassan Rohani was inaugurated, was notably not in President Obama’s name and did not congratulate Rohani but the “Iranian people.”

“We again congratulate the Iranian people for making their voices heard during Iran’s election,” the statement said.

“The inauguration of President Rohani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States.”

Rohani has expressed willingness to make more transparent a nuclear program he insists is peaceful.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed Rohani’s calls, saying the new Iranian leader is putting a more palatable face on the aggressive posture of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

On Sunday, Netanyahu would not back down from his comments two days earlier that the world must cast off the “illusion” of Rohani’s professed moderation and see his “true face.”

“The president of Iran has been replaced, but the goal of the regime has not been replaced, it remains as it was,” Netanyahu said. “Iran’s intention is to develop a nuclear capability and nuclear weapons in order to destroy the State of Israel, and this constitutes a danger not only to us and the Middle East but the entire world, and we are all committed to prevent this.”

Netanyahu’s original comment on Friday was based on the misreporting of remarks Rohani delivered to the media on Quds Day, an annual Iranian protest at Israel’s control of Jerusalem that has spread to the rest of the Muslim world.

Rohani spoke of a “wound on the body of the Islamic world,” but did not specify whether he was referring to Israel or its control of Jerusalem.

The initial erroneous reports, seized upon by Netanyahu, said the “wound” was Israel and that Rohani sought its removal.

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