Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the Nazis committed a "reprehensible" crime against the Jewish people, when he was asked in a television interview whether he accepted that the Holocaust occurred.
Unlike his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani said he does not deny that the Holocaust has happened.
"I am not a historian and when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust it is the historians that should reflect," Rouhani told with CNN's Christiane Amanpour during a visit to New York where he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly.
"But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis created towards the Jews, is reprehensible and condemnable," he said, according to CNN's translation of his comments.
"Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews we condemn," Rouhani told CNN. "The taking of human life is contemptible. It makes no difference if that life is Jewish life, Christian or Muslim. For us it is the same."
But Rouhani went on to take a swipe against Iran's archfoe Israel, which was founded after World War Two as a Jewish state in part of what had been British-mandate Palestine.
"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,'" he said. "This too is an act that should be condemned. There should be an evenhanded discussion."
In clips from the interview that is scheduled to air in full on Wednesday, Rouhani said the proposed meeting with US President Barack Obama at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York did not occur because there was not enough time for preparations.
He added that he was willing to pursue serious negotiations with the West over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, and that Iran is ready to take serious confidence-building steps toward the US, but added it is a two-way street.
Finally, he had a message in English to the American people, "I would like to say to American people: I bring peace and friendship from Iranians to Americans."JPost.com staff contributed to this report.