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Rouhani to Become Iran's 7th President Saturday

Iranian cleric Hassan Rouhani will become Iran's seventh president Sunday, succeeding Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the country's highest elected official.

He will assume the office in a ceremony presided over by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

On the eve of taking office, Rouhani was at the center of controversy over remarks he reportedly made about Israel.

The Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) first reported that 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 Rouhani's comments were distorted. It aired video of reporters interviewing Rouhani in which he said "occupying Palestinian territories is like an old wound in the body of Islamic society."



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 Rouhani's reported comments, saying the Iranian leader'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.

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