Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday called Israel a “cancerous tumour” established by Western countries to advance their interests in the Middle East.
Iran’s leaders frequently condemn Israel and predict its demise, but Rouhani rarely employs such rhetoric.
Addressing an annual Islamic Unity Conference on Saturday, Rouhani said “one of the ominous results of World War II was the formation of a cancerous tumor in the region”.
He went on to refer to Israel as a “fake regime” set up by Western countries.
Iran supports groups like Hezbollah and Hamas that have pledged to fight Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Iran warned it would hit US and Israeli targets if it were attacked by the US after President Donald Trump’s security adviser said Washington would exert maximum pressure on Tehran going beyond economic sanctions. Israel views Iran as an existential threat.
Rouhani said the US cultivates close ties with “regional Muslim nations” to protect Israel, an apparent reference to Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s Sunni Arab allies.
He said bowing to US pressure amounts to “treason”.
“We have a choice to either roll out red carpets for criminals, or to forcefully stand against injustice and remain faithful to our Prophet, our Koran and our Islam,” Rouhani said.
Earlier in November, the US reimposed sanctions against Iran, cutting its energy exports and its banking industry.
Rouhani also said that Iran was prepared to defend Saudi Arabia from “terrorism and superpowers”.
“We do consider you as a brother,” he said. “We do consider the people of Mecca and Medina our brothers,” he added, referring to Islam’s two holiest cities, in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran nearly three years ago after Iranian protesters stormed its diplomatic posts in Iran in response the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr.
The two countries support opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.