Monday, December 19, 2005

Iran tells West to be tolerant of Holocaust views

By Claudia Parsons

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust is a matter for academic discussion and the West should be more tolerant of his views, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

Ahmadinejad last week called the Holocaust a myth and suggested Israel be moved to Germany or Alaska, remarks that sparked international uproar and threaten diplomatic talks with Europe over Iran's nuclear programme.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi defended the president's remarks, which also drew a rebuke from the U.N. Security Council.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks to lawmakers in the Iranian parliament in Tehran December 11, 2005. (REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)
"What the president said is an academic issue. The West's reaction shows their continued support for Zionists," Asefi told a weekly news conference.

"Westerners are used to leading a monologue but they should learn to listen to different views," he added.

Some 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis and their allies between 1933 and 1945.

Ahmadinejad, a former Revolutionary Guardsman who was elected president, also said in October Israel was a "tumour" that must be "wiped off the map".

A statement drafted by European Union leaders described last week's Holocaust comment as "wholly unacceptable". The White House termed the remarks "outrageous".

Asefi denounced international condemnation as emotional and illogical.

"The EU statement is not based on international diplomatic norms. They should avoid illogical methods," he said.

"Westerners are used to leading a monologue, but they should learn to listen to different views."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the Holocaust remarks could weigh on European Union efforts to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

Britain, Germany and France had tentatively planned to hold talks later this month on the nuclear programme, which the United States and the EU fear is a cover to make nuclear bombs. Iran says it needs it to generate electricity.

When asked whether Ahmadinejad's remarks could hinder talks to resolve Iran's nuclear stand-off with the West, Asefi said: "We do not make any hasty judgment. But Iran's right should be respected. We will never abandon our right to nuclear technology."

Copyright © 2005 Reuters

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