Friday, December 9, 2005
TEHRAN, Dec. 8 -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran on Thursday expressed doubt that the Holocaust took place and suggested the Jewish state of Israel be moved to Europe.
Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iran's official IRNA news agency as saying in a news conference in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca: "Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces, and they insist on it to the extent that if anyone proves something contrary to that, they condemn that person and throw them in jail.
"Although we don't accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, our question for the Europeans is: Is the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem?
"If the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe -- like in Germany, Austria or other countries -- to the Zionists, and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe," he said. "You offer part of Europe, and we will support it."
The Nazis killed some 6 million Jews during their 1933-45 rule. Religious hard-liners in Iran do not publicly deny that the Holocaust occurred but say its scale has been exaggerated to justify the creation of Israel and continued Western support for the Jewish state.
Ahmadinejad's remarks follow his call in October for Israel to be "wiped off the map," which sparked widespread outrage in other countries. Thursday's comments also provoked quick condemnation.
State Department spokesman J. Adam Ereli called the remarks "appalling and reprehensible" and said, "They certainly don't inspire hope among any of us in the international community that the government in Iran is prepared to engage as a responsible member of the community."
Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said in Tel Aviv: "Just to remind Mr. Ahmadinejad, we've been here long before his ancestors were here. Therefore, we have a birthright to be here in the land of our forefathers and to live here. Thank God we have the capability to deter and to prevent such a statement from becoming a reality."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Ahmadinejad's words "totally unacceptable," and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "I condemn them unreservedly. They have no place in civilized political debate."