TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's foreign minister said Friday his country will not enter nuclear talks with its arch-enemy Israel, the country's official news agency reported.
A report by IRNA quoted Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying that Islamic Republic "would not attend a meeting in which the occupying regime participates." Iranian officials routinely refer to Israel that way because it controls territories claimed by Palestinians.
The report said Zarif's remarks were in response to possible Israeli participation in talks between Iran and six world powers over Tehran's nuclear program. It did not elaborate on source of the reports on Israel's possible presence.
"Such a thing will never happen and we definitely will not be in the room in which representatives from the Zionist regime will have presence," Zarif said.
Zarif said instead of putting pressures on Iran, the world powers should try to push for regional disarmament, a reference to disarming Israel's own nuclear arsenal. Israel is widely believed to have atomic weapons but does not acknowledge having a nuclear arsenal.
"We do consider the Zionist regime as the biggest regional and world danger," he said.
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought Islamist leaders to power, Iran does not recognize Israel and supports militant anti-Israeli groups like Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Israel in turn views Iran as a major danger to its national interests, as previous Iranian leaders have called for the Jewish state to be destroyed.
Last weekend in a meeting with world powers in Geneva, Iran agreed to freeze parts of its nuclear program in return for the easing of Western sanctions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly has criticized the deal as a "mistake."
Western powers and Israel worry Iran's nuclear program could be used to build an atomic bomb. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, like power generation and medical research.
Iranian nuclear envoy Reza Najafi also criticized Israel on Friday in a statement to the United Nations nuclear agency, which will monitor the agreement reached in Geneva.
"Israel ... is crying wolf about nuclear proliferation concerns," Najafi told the International Atomic Energy Agency. "This regime (has) a long history of aggression against neighbors, atrocity against peoples under occupation and clandestine development of all kinds of" weapons of mass destruction.
Joseph Macmanus, the chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, told The Associated Press that Najafi's anti-Israel comments were "inflammatory ... and wrong."
Najafi also told the agency that said the proposed nuclear deal likely will start to be implemented at the end of next month or in early January. Diplomats told the AP on Wednesday that they did not expect the deal to begin before the start of the new year.
In Iran, most have supported the nuclear deal, though some hard-liners remain suspicious. On Friday, most clerics who led Friday prayers across Iran gave sermons discussing their support for the Geneva deal, while calling it a failure for Israel.
Associated Press writer George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.