Iranian foreign minister: Israel has an arsenal of 200 nuclear warheads

In interview with ABC, Zarif says Holocaust "is not a myth"; accuses Israel as source of Mideast insecurity.

Iranian FM Javad Zarif 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian FM Javad Zarif 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused Israel on Sunday of having an arsenal of 200 nuclear warheads, and said it is the source of insecurity in the Middle East.
"Israel has 200 nuclear warheads. Israel is the source of insecurity in our region. Israel is the source of aggression and violation of human rights of the Palestinian people. It should not have the audacity to continue to lie to the American people and to the world and mislead everybody," Zarif told ABC's This Week in his first appearance on the show in 26 years
He also responded to reports in the Sunday Times that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intends to present US President Barack Obama during their meeting on Monday intelligence showing Iran already has enough enriched uranium to produce some nuclear weapon, is developing a nuclear detonator and is testing missiles that could carry nuclear warheads.
"Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991 - and you can refer to your records - that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon. And we are how many years, 22 years after that and they are still saying we're six months away from nuclear weapons," he said.
"We're not seeking nuclear weapons. So, we're not six months, six years, sixty years away from nuclear weapons. We don't want nuclear weapons. We believe nuclear weapons are detrimental to our security. We believe those who have the illusion that nuclear weapons provide them with security are badly mistaken. We need to have a region and a world free from nuclear weapons," he continued.
Zarif was also asked about a passage on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's English website that refers to the Holocaust as "a myth."
The passage, Zarif said, is a mistranslation from Farsi.
"The Holocaust is not a myth. Nobody is talking about the myth," he said.
"If it said it [on Ayatollah Khamenei's website], it's a bad translation. And it is translated out of context that they have," he continued, explaining that the Ayatollah was "simply asking that we should do some studies" on the topic.
Zarif also promised to speak to the Ayatollah's team about changing the translation.
Echoing similar statements made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when he was asked to address the issue, Zarif made the leap from the Nazis' condemnable crime to the suffering of the Palestinian people.
"We condemn the killing of innocent people, whether it happened in Nazi Germany or whether it's happening in Palestine. One crime, however heinous - and [the] Holocaust was a heinous crime, it was a genocide, it must never be allowed to be repeated. But that crime cannot be, and should not be, a justification to trample the rights of the Palestinian people for 60 years. We should have abandoned this game and start recognizing the fact that without respect for the rights of the Palestinians we will never have peace in our region," he said.
Iran's right for nuclear enrichment 'nonnegotiable'
Not unlike Rouhani, Zarif also demanded relief from the sanctions imposed on Tehran. When pressed on what the Islamic Republic is willing to offer in return, Zarif clarified that the country's right to peaceful nuclear enrichment was not negotiable.
"Negotiations are on the table to discuss various aspects of Iran's enrichment program. Our right to enrich is non-negotiable," he insisted.
Zarif said Iran was willing to open its nuclear facilities to international inspections but the United States must end economic sanctions as part of any deal on Iran's nuclear program.
Speaking in the midst of an intensified effort to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, Zarif said he could see a "real chance" for agreement with the United States.
Iran consistently has defended its right to enrich uranium as part of a civilian nuclear energy and medicine program, but the United States and its allies have sought an end to higher-grade uranium enrichment that could be a step away from the production of weapons-grade material.
"We do not need military-grade uranium. That's a certainty and we will not move in that direction," Zarif said. "Having an Iran that does not have nuclear weapons, is not just your goal, it's first and foremost our goal."
Reuters contributed to this report.