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Archive for Thursday, December 15, 2005

Iranian president calls Holocaust ‘myth’

December 15, 2005

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— Iran's hard-line president lashed out with a new outburst at Israel on Wednesday, calling the Nazi Holocaust a "myth" used as a pretext for carving out a Jewish state in the heart of the Muslim world.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments drew quick condemnations from Israel, the United States and Europe, which warned he is hurting Iran's position in talks aimed at resolving suspicions about his regime's nuclear program.

In unusually strong comments, a top European Union official said Iranians "do not have the president, or the regime, they deserve."

"It calls our attention to the real danger of that regime having an atomic bomb," said the president of the EU's administrative body, Jose Manuel Barroso.

The Bush administration also said Ahmadinejad's remarks showed why Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the comments "outrageous" and "certainly reprehensible."

"This is one more indication that Iran is headed off 180 degrees from the rest of the world," McCormack said, taking care to note that "this isn't the Iranian people who are headed off in a different direction from the rest of the world."

Iran and the Europeans are due to resume the U.S.-backed negotiations soon, possibly in late December, trying to find a compromise on reining in Tehran's nuclear program and avoiding a confrontation.

Washington says Iran is secretly trying to build warheads. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, and Ahmadinejad reiterated Wednesday that his regime refuses to give up key processes that can produce weapons-grade material as well as fuel for atomic reactors that generate electricity.

It was difficult to measure the impact that increasing anger over Ahmadinejad might have on the negotiations.

The Europeans have not threatened to call off the talks, which they see as vital to a peaceful resolution of fears over Iran's nuclear ambitions. But Ahmadinejad's words, which come as the top U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has said it is losing patience with Tehran, could lead Europe to take a tougher stance.

So far, Ahmadinejad has appeared to only escalate his rhetoric in the face of widespread international criticism, suggesting he may be seeking to fire up supporters at home.

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