Iran's Jews do not recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel, a senior Iranian Jewish leader reportedly declared on Sunday. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, the Iranian state's official news organ, Haroun Yashai, head of the Committee of Teherani Jews, made the statement to the Russian daily Gazetta. The report quoted Yashai as saying that "We [Jews] are citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran." Yashai ruled out allegations that religious minorities were deprived of their rights in Iran. "Foreign journalists usually think that our comments on the good condition of religious minorities in Iran are false" and "expressed on the call and under pressure of Iranian officials." According to the report, Yashai said this belief was "wrong," and added that Jews were free to react to some government policies and even to write to government officials on the issues. In addition, Yashai said, Jews were free to perform their religious duties and say their prayers in the "Jewish language." Yashai added that 23 of Iran's 40 synagogues were active, and said that Jews had been observing their customs and had been living in Iran for 2,500 years, since Cyrus the Great ruled the country, and that today's Jewish population - quoted at 25,000 in the IRNA report - lived mostly in Teheran, Shiraz, and Isfahan.

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