- Associated Press - Saturday, April 7, 2012

TEHRAN, IRAN (AP) - A senior Iranian official has praised Nobel literature laureate Guenter Grass for a poem criticizing Israel, saying he has beautifully carried out his human and historical responsibility.

In the poem published in European dailies earlier this week, Grass criticized what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel’s nuclear program and labeled the country a threat to “already fragile world peace” over its stance on Iran. He’s since been accused of anti-Semitism.

But Iranian Deputy Culture Minister Javad Shamaqdari says in a letter that the 84-year-old poet’s revelation of “truth may awaken the silent conscience” of the West. A copy of the letter was posted Saturday on the semiofficial Fars news agency.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

BERLIN (AP) _ Nobel literature laureate Guenter Grass, who is under fire for a poem that criticizes Israel, has told German media that he was singling out the Jewish state’s government, not the country as a whole.

In the poem published in European dailies earlier this week, the 84-year-old German author criticized what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel’s nuclear program and labeled the country a threat to “already fragile world peace” over its stance on Iran.

He’s since been accused of anti-Semitism, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rebuked his views as “ignorant and objectionable.”

In an interview published Saturday by the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Grass says he sought foremost to single out the policies of “Netanyahu’s current government.”