Members of Iran's Basij militia march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war in Tehran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A top aide to Iran's supreme leader scoffed at the notion over the weekend that his government has changed its stance toward Israel.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Iranian news media on Saturday that Iran will never recognize Israel, refuting suggestions from British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond that Tehran may one day be open to doing so.
"Iran will not recognize Israel," Velayati told a group of Pakistani religious delegates. "We still emphasize that Israel is a usurper and occupying regime and we will not come along with it."
Hammond, who visited Tehran last week to re-christen the British embassy for the first time since it was shut down four years ago, said the current Iranian government had displayed a more nuanced approach than its predecessor to a long-running conflict with Israel, adding that Tehran would be judged on its actions, not its words.
"What we're looking for is behavior from Iran, not only towards Israel but towards other players in the region, that slowly rebuilds their sense that Iran is not a threat to them," he said.
Hammond's remarks prompted Iranian officials to quickly dismiss any suggestions that a change of direction toward Israel was in the offing.
"We have rejected such media hype (before) and during Mr. Hammond's trip to Iran, we just discussed potentials of bilateral relations, fighting extremism and terrorism, etc.," a spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry told reporters in Tehran.
"There were no talks on the Zionist regime and the report that Iran has changed its position is denied," said the official.
Another top Iranian official was equally adamant in dismissing talk of Tehran's softening of its anti-Israel stance.
"Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all," Hossein Sheikholeslam, the parliament speaker's foreign policy adviser, told Iranian media. "Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan."