US, EU Outraged Over Iranian President's Holocaust Comments
The United States and European Union has expressed outrage and shock after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the Holocaust as a "myth". The President ignited worldwide condemnation when he made the comments in a televised speech in which he also said that the state of Israel should be moved as far away as Alaska.
"I think all responsible leaders in the international community recognise how outrageous such comments are," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
In Europe, governments issued angry statements condemning the speech, which followed comments last week by Ahmadinejad doubting the Holocaust.
"The comments are wholly unacceptable and we condemn them unreservedly. They have no place in civilised political debate," Britain's Minister for Europe Douglas Alexander said, whose country currently holds the EU presidency. READ MORE
Mr Alexander, speaking in Strasbourg to the applause of European parliamentarians, says "the presidency has been unequivocal in its condemnation of the comments attributed to President Ahmadinejad of Iran".
With Germany, France and Britain tentatively due to hold talks with Iran over its disputed nuclear program, US and European officials said Mr Ahmadinejad's words reinforced suspicions about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"His comments and statements only underscore why it is so important that the international community continue to work together to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons," Mr McClellan said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says the Iranian President's remarks were "shocking and totally unacceptable".
Mr Steinmeier said that in the absence of the Iranian ambassador, the government on Monday had called in Iran's charge d'affaires in Germany to signal its disapproval of the President's previous outburst.
In October, Mr Ahmadinejad said Israel "must be wiped off the map" and last week he described the country as a "tumour" and said it should be moved to Germany or Austria.
On Wednesday, he said: "They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets".
The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, called Mr Ahmadinejad's speech "repulsive".
"I lost my sister and several other relatives in the Holocaust. Words fail one when one hears such unbearable utterances," he told the Tageszeitung.
France and Spain strongly condemned the Iranian president, with Paris saying in a statement that Mr Ahmadinejad's "declarations did not contribute to establishing a climate of confidence between Iran and the international community".
Austrian President Heinz Fischer says Mr Ahmadinejad's verbal attacks against Jews and Israel are "unacceptable".
In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman says Mr Ahmadinejad's "perverse vision" should make clear to the world that the Iranian regime posed a dangerous threat that could not be explained away.
"We hope that these extremist declarations will make the world wake up to the nature of this regime - especially the fact that Iran's nuclear program and its support of international terrorism, represents not only a danger for Israel but for the entire Western civilisation," Mr Sharon's spokesman Raanan Gissin told AFP.
He vowed that Israel had the means to defend itself and would not allow for a second genocide of Jews.
Commentators in and outside of Iran say Tehran is headed on a collision course with Western governments following Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks.
"A man who refuses to believe the historic truth is capable of anything," wrote Jonathan Freedland, a commentator for the British daily the Guardian.