Iran minister hails Gunter Grass Israel poem

Iran's deputy culture minister on Saturday hailed German Nobel literature laureate Gunter Grass's poem in which he accused Israel of plotting Tehran's annihilation, local media reported.

In a letter addressed to "Distinguished author Dr Gunter Grass," Deputy Culture Minister Javad Shamaqdari was quoted as saying: "I read your literary work of human and historical responsibility, and it warns beautifully."

"Telling the truth in this way may awake the silent and dormant conscience of the West. Writers are able single-handedly to prevent human tragedies, in a way that armies cannot."

The 84-year-old Grass sparked outrage at home and abroad on Wednesday when he published "What must be said" in a newspaper. In it he said he feared a nuclear-armed Israel "could wipe out the Iranian people" with a "first strike."

Grass, a long-time leftist activist, said in interviews on Thursday that the media had attacked him without understanding his message, and although he found the personal accusations against him "hurtful," he had no plans to back down.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called Grass's poem "shameful."

Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, has said it is keeping all options open over Iran's nuclear programme, which it says is aimed at securing atomic weapons, posing an existential threat to the Jewish state.

Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly questioned Israel's right to exist, has denied that its sensitive nuclear work is aimed at making atomic bombs.

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