Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Friday that Hamas and Hezbollah are not terrorist groups.
Rouhani, who gave an hourlong press conference at the One U.N. New York hotel on Friday, repeatedly condemned those who financially or materially support ISIS. But he denied that groups for whom Iran provides that kind of support are terrorists, despite the fact that both Hamas and Hezbollah are listed as terrorist groups by the U.S. and the E.U. Iran is listed as a top state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department.
Rouhani said that Iran does not choose who it opposes based on whether they are Sunni or Shia. (Iran is predominantly Shia.)
“Our first battle against terrorism was against Shiite groups,” he said, citing the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), who “sought breeding grounds and nests in western countries and are still present there.” The MEK is a controversial opposition movement mainly composed of exiles who want the current Iranian regime to be overthrown.
“It doesn’t matter to us what sect terrorists belong to,” Rouhani said.
He said that Hezbollah is a legitimate member of Lebanon’s parliament and government, and that it is “respected by government officials and the people of Lebanon.”
“They always express their gratitude of that resistance which you spoke of in such passion earlier,” he said to the reporter who asked the question.
As for Hamas: “Has Hamas not taken the reigns of power according to the results of an election?” he asked. “How is that you don’t take the votes of the people at face value?”
“I have never heard of Hamas and Hezbollah taking action in other countries,” Rouhani said. “All of the terrorist activities that we see today emanate from other groups.”
Read more at BUZZ FEED.