Friday, December 09, 2005

US, UN condemn Iranian leader's Holocaust comments

US, UN condemn Iranian leader's Holocaust comments
By Carol Giacomo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressing doubt about the Holocaust and suggesting Israel be moved to Europe are appalling and reprehensible, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.

"These latest remarks ... are clearly appalling and reprehensible. They certainly don't inspire hope among any of us in the international community that the government of Iran is prepared to engage as a responsible member of that community," deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said.

At the United Nations in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed shock at the comments attributed to Ahmadinejad, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Annan noted the U.N. General Assembly last month passed a resolution rejecting "any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or in part."

He said all nations should educate their populations about the Holocaust in which "one third of the Jewish people were murdered, along with countless members of other minorities."

Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying: "Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces ... Although we don't accept this claim."

"If the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe ... to the Zionists, and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe," he said.

Annan last month canceled a trip to Tehran because of Ahmadinejad's call in October "to wipe Israel off the map."

Ereli said the remarks appeared to be part of a "consistent pattern of rhetoric that is both hostile and out of touch with the values that the rest of the international community lives by."

The State Department spokesman said Iran had pledged to uphold international norms and must be held to those standards but he declined to say what, if any, action the United States might be inclined to take in response.

Ahmadinejad's comments were reported by IRNA news agency from a news conference he gave in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca.

Six million Jews were killed by Germany's 1933-1945 Nazi regime. Ahmadinejad's remarks drew swift rebukes from Israel and Germany as well.

The United States accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism, interfering with Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and developing a nuclear weapon under the cover of a program Tehran insists is aimed only at producing energy for civilian use.

Britain, France and Germany, with U.S. backing, have been trying to defuse the nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiations but Iran increasingly has toughened its stance, dimming chances for a compromise.

(Additional reporting by Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations)