By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The White House sharply criticized a conference yesterday sponsored by the Iranian government that questioned the reality of the Nazi Holocaust, calling the gathering "an affront to the entire civilized world" and to "traditional Iranian values of tolerance and mutual respect."
The conference, organized by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, concluded yesterday in Tehran amid widespread international condemnation, including from Britain, Germany, Israel and the Vatican. In a statement, the White House said: "The Iranian regime perversely seeks to call the historical fact of those atrocities into question and provide a platform for hatred.
"The United States will continue to support those in Iran and elsewhere who seek to promote human rights and dignity, and will stand with them in their efforts to overcome oppression, injustice, and tyranny," the statement added.
The conference drew 67 Holocaust skeptics and deniers from 30 countries, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, according to wire service accounts. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly cast doubt on the Holocaust, describing it as a "myth," and the Islamic Republic News Agency quoted him making similar comments in talking with the conferees yesterday.
"Those having supported the Zionist regime during their lifetime should be aware that its lifetime will be over, and their interests as well as reputation will be endangered," the Iranian president was quoted as saying. "Just as the ground was prepared to assign such a regime, the Zionist regime will be overthrown by its supporters."
Ahmadinejad has sought to stoke his political position at home and abroad with fiery condemnations of Israel, the United States and the West in general. It is a major reason that the White House has been cool to suggestions, most recently from the Iraq Study Group, that it engage in high-level dialogue with Iran to help stabilize conditions in Iraq. The White House has said that it will talk with Iran only if it agrees to suspend enrichment of uranium, a key ingredient in a nuclear bomb.