On the eve of taking office, Iran's President-elect Hassan Rouhani on Friday was at the center of controversy over remarks he reportedly made about Israel.
The Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) first reported that Mr. Rouhani called Israel a "wound" that "has sat on the body of the Muslim world" and needs to be "removed." International news agencies carried the remarks and Israel's prime minister issued a swift retort.
However, Iranian state television said later that accounts of Mr. Rouhani's comments were distorted. It aired video of reporters interviewing Mr. Rouhani in which he said "occupying Palestinian territories is like an old wound in the body of Islamic society."
The video, viewed by VOA's Persian News Network, could not be independently verified.
Mr. Rouhani's remarks came as Iranians held rallies celebrating Friday as Quds Day (Jerusalem Day). He is due to take office on Sunday.
Iranian news reports say the president-elect also cast doubt on Israel's efforts to revive peace talks with Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly criticized Mr. Rouhani's reported comments, saying the Iranian leader had shown his "true face" sooner than expected. He said Mr. Rouhani's comments were part of Iran's "plan of action" against Israel.
Iran has been steadfast in its rejection of Israel as a state. Israel and Western powers have accused Iran of having nuclear weapons ambitions, a charge Tehran denies. Israel has warned it will not tolerate Iran's development of a nuclear arsenal, which Israel sees as an emerging threat.