Iran defends conference to examine scientific evidence for Holocaust

By The Associated Press

Haaretz

Tevet 24, 5766

Iran Tuesday defended its plan to organize a conference to examine what it terms the scientific evidence for the Holocaust, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also castigated British Prime Minister Tony Blair for criticizing the event, saying the time has come for Western leaders to hear comments not to their liking.

"For over half a century, those who seek to prove the Holocaust have used every podium to defend their position. Now they should listen to others," IRNA quoted Asefi as saying Tuesday.

The planned conference is yet another step in hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's public campaign against Israel.

Ahmadinejad already had called the Nazis' World War II slaughter of 6 million European Jews a "myth" and said the Jewish state should be "wiped off the Map."

If the Holocaust did happen, Ahmadinejad said Israel should be moved to Germany or North America, rather than punishing the Palestinians, who lost their land in the name of what he called crimes committed by Europeans.

The call prompted strong condemnation from Western leaders. Blair has reportedly branded the planned conference "shocking" and "ridiculous."

IRNA quoted Asefi as saying: "People of the world should hear all opinions and choose the best. Such comments are an insult to the wisdom of the people around the world."

"Unfortunately, blind prejudice together with political interests and aims have closed the eyes of the Holocaust defenders to the realities of the world, and they reject without any logic a scientific conference," Asefi was quoted as saying.

On Monday, a small round-table discussion hosted by a private news agency and a pro-Palestinian non-governmental organization in Tehran examined whether the Holocaust was a lie or an exaggeration. The discussion was attended by mostly university students.

Political science professor, Ahmad Bakhshayesh, called the Holocaust a lie used by Zionists to justify creation of Israel.

Iran's Foreign Ministry, which was expected to sponsor the conference, has yet to fix a date or place. It was not clear who might attend.

Ahmadinejad has been issuing the highly inflammatory comments about Israel and the Holocaust in conjunction with the country's deepening confrontation with the West over its nuclear activities. The United States and its allies accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran says the program is its right under the Nonproliferation Treaty and is designed for electricity generation.