Iran's new president has acknowledged that Nazis killed Jews, furthering the stark contrast between himself and his predecessor, who called the Holocaust a "myth."
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN, he also discussed Israel and Syria.
"Any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis committed towards the Jews as well as non-Jews, was reprehensible and condemnable," President Hassan Rouhani said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
"Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn, because genocide, the taking of the human life, is condemnable and it makes no difference whether that life is a Jewish life, a Christian or a Muslim or what. For us it's the same."
He also referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"But this does not mean that on the other hand you can say Nazis committed crimes against a group, now therefore they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it. This, too, is an act that should be condemned. There should be an even-handed discussion," Rouhani said, speaking through a translator.
Rouhani emphasized that he is "not a historian."
The Anti-Defamation League responded quickly.
"It is about time an Iranian leader acknowledged the Holocaust as a tragic fact of history," ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a written statement.
"But in practically the same breath President Rouhani engaged in the more subtle form of Holocaust revisionism, minimizing it by accusing the Jewish survivors of taking vengeance on the Palestinians in fulfilling their 2,000-year-old dream of returning to their homeland, Israel. This was a gratuitous swipe at the survivors.
"There is no moral equivalency between the slaughter of 6 million Jews and millions of other innocent men, women and children in the Nazi gas chambers and the plight of the Palestinian people living in the West Bank and Gaza. The Iranians, apparently, are willing to come only so far."
Days earlier, in an interview with NBC, Rouhani declined to say whether the Holocaust happened.
The country's previous president, the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, infamously called the Holocaust a myth.
"If the Holocaust is a reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives?" he once asked.
CNN asked Rouhani about another of Ahmadinejad's remarks -- that Israel should be wiped off the map.
"We have no intention of attacking any country or getting into a war with any country," he said. "Even if our armed forces are built up, it is for defense purposes alone."
The "issue of Palestine" should resolved through the ballot box, he said.
In New York for the U.N. General Assembly, he brought along the only Jewish member of the Iranian parliament.
"Our effort here is to tell the world public opinion that Iran is not only not anti-Semitic, but rather that it respects the customs and beliefs of the Jewish people," Rouhani said.
"We are proud of our history of peaceful coexistence with followers of all belief systems," he said.
Human rights organizations have chronicled Iran's treatment of some religious minorities, particularly members of the Baha'i faith.
Despite the recent release of more than a dozen political and religious prisoners in Iran, "religious minorities and other prisoners of conscience in Iran continue to suffer for their beliefs, including more than 100 imprisoned members of the Baha'i community and its leadership," said Robert P. George, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in a statement Monday.
Also, "a renewed crackdown on Protestant Christians in recent weeks has led to numerous arrests," the commission said. "Of those Christians already imprisoned, Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini continues to languish in Evin prison while his eight-year sentence was upheld just last month."
Rouhani told CNN he is pursuing a citizenship charter that will work to improve freedoms. "So I will spare no effort to ensure that those who are currently in prison will see an opening door," he said.
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