Blair calls conference in Iran 'shocking'
By Christine Hauser
Published: December 12, 2006
A gathering in Iran billed as a conference to "debate" the Holocaust continued
to spark outrage Tuesday, drawing fierce criticism from Western leaders.
The conference in Tehran, which began Monday, has attracted Holocaust deniers
from around the world who made presentations questioning the historical record
of the Holocaust, including whether Nazi Germany used gas chambers to
exterminate millions of Jews and other "undesirables."
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany condemned the conference Tuesday and said
Germany would never accept it. Germany also summoned the Iranian chargé
d'affaires in Berlin to express its anger over the conference.
In several European countries, including Germany, denial of the Holocaust is a
While many Western countries have recently urged that Iran and Syria be
included in negotiations to deal with conflicts in the region, including the
violence in Iraq, some have pointed to the conference as indicative of the
extremist nature of the current Iranian government.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has frequently voiced a view held by
many in the Muslim world that the crimes of the Nazis were exaggerated to
justify giving Palestinian land to Jews, ultimately leading to the creation of
Iran held a contest over the summer for cartoons about the Holocaust, in
reaction to a controversy over cartoons published in Denmark that lampooned
the Prophet Muhammad.
The White House said that it recognized that not everyone in Iran agreed with
the most extreme elements in the regime there, and that the United States
would stand with those who sought "to overcome oppression, injustice and
During his monthly news conference Tuesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair of
Britain held out little hope of engaging Iran in constructive action in the
Middle East and expressed revulsion at the Holocaust conference, calling it
"shocking beyond belief."
"It's not that I'm against the concept of reaching out to people," Blair was
quoted by Reuters as saying, in a reference to efforts to include Iran in
peace efforts. "The trouble is, I look around the region at the moment, and
everything that Iran is doing is negative."
Calling the Holocaust an "immense tragedy" for humanity, the Vatican issued a
statement admitting of no doubt that the mass murder of Jews took place. The
statement used the Hebrew word for the Holocaust, Shoah, and expressed "great
compassion" for what happened to the Jews of Europe during World War II,
according to Agence France-Presse.
The White House said in a statement that the gathering of Holocaust deniers in
Tehran was an "affront to the entire civilized world, as well as to the
traditional Iranian values of tolerance and mutual respect."
Franco Frattini, vice president of the European Commission, the executive arm
of the European Union, expressed "shock" that the conference had been
The French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, also condemned the
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said that 67 people from 30 countries were
participating in the two days of meetings.
On Monday, Rasoul Mousavi, head of the Foreign Ministry's Institute for
Political and International Studies, said it would provide an opportunity to
discuss the Holocaust "away from Western taboos and the restriction imposed on
them in Europe
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