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NEW YORK – Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told a New York City audience that Tehran is key to a true peace in the Middle East.

Speaking at the Council On Foreign Relations Monday evening, the Iranian official insisted that Iran poses a threat to “nobody” despite warnings from the White House and Jerusalem to the contrary.

“A distorted picture of my country is being presented to the international community,” he lamented.

Last week, at the U.N. General Assembly, President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran and its atomic research program pose the greatest challenge to world security.

Tehran insists its nuclear activities are peaceful, however, the Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s atomic watchdog, have expressed serious doubts about Iran’s explanations.

The council has issued repeated warnings and levied numerous economic sanctions to press its reservations, yet Tehran has failed to comply.

Salehi believes the U.N., pressured by the United States and Israel has been unfair.

“Iran is part of the solution to all of the region’s crises. … There is too much Islamophobia, Iranophobia by too many countries,” he said. “This fear industry is a complicated one based [on] a belief that these nations are superior, Muslims inferior. … It reduces the Iranian nuclear project to a simple couple of series of baseless allegations. … Iran is the anchor of stability, of security in the Middle East.”

Before becoming foreign minister in 2009, Salehi ran Iran’s nuclear program.

The Iranian, challenging earlier accusations made by Netanyahu, declared that a war is the last thing his government wants.

“No other nation’s security is as linked to the Persian Gulf as Iran’s. … Our imports, our exports rely on a secure Persian Gulf. Our security is a collective one. a comprehensive one.”

Taking aim at both the U.S. and Israel, Salehi declared their campaign to punish Iran will not succeed.

“All extra-regional disputes that are based on the artificial threat posed by Iran are doomed to failure. … The statements on attacking Iran for whatever reason there may be is against international peace and security…Why such statements are made is beyond explanation.”

Ironically, the historical rhetoric from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the “annihilation” of the Jewish state was nowhere to be found in the foreign minster’s comments.

Iranian diplomats hastened to claim that neither Ahmadinejad nor Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has ever called for Israel’s destruction.

What has been said was: “Occupation (of any lands) should be wiped from this world, for war seeking to be wiped off and eradicated, the killing of women and children to be eradicated.”

A Washington Post “Fact Checker” column by Glen Kessler dated Oct. 5, 2011 confirmed the Iranian account.

But the Jerusalem Post reported just a few weeks ago on Ahmadinejad’s statement, “Anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime in order to pave the way for world justice and freedom.”

In a 2005 speech he used a phrase that translates literally as “wiped off the page of time,” according to the report.

The minister’s direct reference to Israel rather the term “Zionist entity” also raised eyebrows.

However, Salehi did speculate on the root cause of the “anti-Iran campaign.”

“Attacking Iran is a response to a identity and security crisis in Israel and absolutely for domestic political consumption. … The Israeli clans are war beaters who use the pretext of an Iranian nuclear threat for political games and gains.”

The foreign minister told his hosts that Israel is the true main threat to future regional peace and stability.

“Israel is not a party to any disarmament conventions including the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is the major impediment in having the Middle East declared a nuclear-free zone. … Having at least 100 nuclear bombs in its arsenal, Israel is in fact the most significant source of insecurity, of instability in the region. … It is indeed a liability for American foreign policy.”

The Salehi address completed a week-long charm offensive first begun by Ahmadinejad last Tuesday in the U.N. General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad made probably his final visit to New York as Iranian president. His second and final term expires next year.

The muted tone on Israel in Ahmadinejad’s speech has led to speculation in the U.N. corridors that Tehran may be seeking a compromise to resolve its long-running nuclear standoff.

Last week, Ahmadinejad told a group of students and academics at a private dinner:

“Iran has made mistakes…Iran could have behaved better,”

He added:

“We are ready for a transparent dialogue. … We are ready to eliminate negative mindsets.”

Israel’s U.N. mission declined comment.

U.S.-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice also remained silent.

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