Israel minister criticizes boycott of Iran speech

JERUSALEM (AP) — A senior Israeli minister is criticizing the prime minister’s instruction to Israel’s U.N. delegation to boycott the Iranian president’s speech at the General Assembly.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement that Benjamin Netanyahu’s instruction made Israel seem opposed to negotiations and “uninterested in peaceful solutions.” He said walking out of the assembly was “irrelevant in current diplomacy.”

Israel believes Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb, and Netanyahu has voiced skepticism at recent moderate gestures by Iranian President Hasan Rouhani.

Netanyahu said Israel’s delegation boycotted Rouhani’s speech because it was “a cynical public relations ploy.”

The Iranian leader said in his speech that he is ready to restart negotiations over his country’s nuclear program and called for moderation. Netanyahu said the address was filled with “hypocrisy.”

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