DUBAI - Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif survived a censure vote in parliament on Tuesday for his refusal to deny the Holocaust, in the latest battle with hardliners trying to undermine President Hassan Rouhani's overtures to the West.
Zarif, who is Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, caused uproar among hardline conservatives in Iran when he called the Holocaust a "horrifying tragedy" in an interview with a German television station earlier this year.
He has received several warnings and had previously been called to parliament to account for his perceived soft line on traditional enemies Israel and the United States.
In Tuesday's hearing, broadcast live on state radio, 75 Islamic hardliners in the 290-member assembly questioned him on a range of issues, including his stance on "illegitimate" Israel and the "lie of the Holocaust."
In a victory for moderates trying to shed the anti-Semitic image cultivated by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the house voted against censuring Zarif.
The foreign minister turned the questions into an attack on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
To bursts of applause, he said: "Netanyahu shamelessly claims Iran denies the Holocaust, that we are after a nuclear bomb to create another Holocaust. As long as I am foreign minister, I will not allow the Holocaust to be exploited to ruin our national image and dignity."
Holocaust denial has been a theme of public speeches by leaders in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Ahmadinejad called the mass killing of Jews by the Nazis during World War Two "a myth."
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