Sunday, April 09, 2006

Iran's Ahmadinejad not planning to attend World Cup

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has no plans to travel to Germany to support his country's World Cup campaign, an official said on Sunday. READ MORE

Ahmadinejad labelled the Holocaust a myth and German diplomats feared he could become a controversial and embarrassing distraction from the tournament.

"It is not on his agenda," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters, when asked whether Ahmadinejad was planning to support Iran from the stands in Germany.

Iran's opening match against Mexico on June 11 is in Nuremberg, a city closely associated with Nazism.

There have been calls, particularly from Jewish leaders, to ban Iran from playing in the World Cup but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the country's team and fans should not be penalised for their president's remarks.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Ahmadinejad was welcome at matches but should expect to be taken to task for denying that the Nazis and their allies murdered six million Jews between 1933 and 1945.

Holocaust denial is a serious crime in Germany, punishable with a prison term of up to five years.