Kislev 15, 5766
European Union leaders were set
to condemn Iran's president for denying the Holocaust and warn Tehran the
opportunity for a diplomatic solution to its nuclear program cannot stay
open forever, diplomats said on Thursday.
A summit statement drafted by EU foreign ministers said of
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement that the Nazi mass extermination of Jews was a myth: "These comments are wholly unacceptable and have no place in civilized political debate."
It also voiced grave concern at Iran's failure to remove
suspicions about its nuclear intentions and said: "The window of opportunity will not remain open indefinitely."
Diplomats said the tough language on Iran was part of a
wider EU statement on the Middle East to be issued either on Thursday night or Friday.
Germany may ban Ahmadinejad's entry
German officials are weighing up imposing some form of travel restriction on Ahmadinejad after his denials that the Holocaust happened, a senior foreign ministry official said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, both Russia and a top Vatican cardinal condemned Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial.
Some six millions Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War Two. Publicly denying that the Holocaust happened, as Ahmadinejad has done twice, is a crime in Germany.
In an interview with German WDR television, Gernot Erler, a state secretary at the foreign ministry, said the ministry was discussing whether Ahmadinejad should be allowed to enter Germany.
"We are considering whether some kind of travel restrictions could possibly be applied here," Erler said.
The Iranian president told a crowd in the southeastern city of Zahedan on Wednesday that the killing of millions of Jews by the Nazis was a legend, reiterating comments which drew international condemnation last week.
In October, Ahmadinejad said the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map."
Erler said any retaliatory steps needed to be carefully considered to ensure they did not undermine efforts by France, Britain and Germany to persuade Iran to give up what Washington and the European Union fear is an atomic weapons program.
"It would make no sense ... to completely isolate this country, because then, for example, a negotiated solution would no longer be possible," Erler said.
Iran denies wanting nuclear energy for anything other than the peaceful generation of electricity.
Speaking in a parliamentary debate, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned Ahmadinejad's remarks and said: "The government in Tehran must understand that the patience of the international community is not endless."
Russia responded on Thursday to Ahmadinejad's latest remarks on the Holocaust and Israel by reaffirming its condemnation of revisionist attempts to deny the Holocaust and reiterating its support for Israel's right to a peaceful and secure existence.
The statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry did not directly condemn Ahmadinejad but said it was necessary to restate Moscow's "principled position."
"Speculation on these themes runs contrary to the principles of the UN Charter and the opinion of the world community," the statement said.
A top Vatican cardinal said Thursday that it was shocking and unacceptable for the Iranian president to have said the Holocaust was a myth.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German who heads the Vatican's office for relations with Jews, spoke at a luncheon by the Anti-Defamation League as he received an award for his efforts to improve Catholic-Jewish relations.
"It is shocking to hear from the mouth of the president of a nation with an ancient and venerable culture, as the Iranian nation is, expressions of anti-Semitism which for every human being are unacceptable," Kasper said. "To
call the Holocaust a myth is a new injustice to the victims of this unprecedented genocide."
Kasper's comments were the strongest to date by a Vatican official on the Iranian president's statements. In October, the Vatican deemed such statements as "unacceptable" but did not mention Iran by name.