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Analysts: Ahmadinejab statements about destroying Israel "meant to keep anti - Israel sentiment alive in the Middle East"

Iran tells West to be tolerant of Holocaust views
December 18, 2005

Holocaust Remarks Seen As Iran President's Strategy to Keep Anti-Israel Sentiments Alive


The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran - Remarks by Iran's hard-line president that the Holocaust was a "myth" and Israel should be "wiped off the map" are not just wild comments by a novice leader, but part of a strategy to keep anti-Israel sentiment alive in the Middle East, analysts said Saturday.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose comments have drawn international condemnation and ratcheted up tensions in an already volatile region, is also trying to revive the radical fervor of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution after eight years of rule by a more moderate Iranian government.

"The man is still living in 1979 and believes Iran represents a revolution more than just a state," said Mustafa Alani, director of security studies at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. "He believes (verbally) attacking Israel, which was a key principal of the revolution, will serve Iranian interests in the region more than polite, rational policies."

Ahmadinejad, who took office in August, caused an international outcry in October by calling Israel a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the map."

Leaders around the world also condemned him in recent days for calling the Nazi slaughter of Jews during World War II a "myth." He added that if the Holocaust did happen, then Israel should be moved to Europe or North America, rather than making Palestinians suffer by losing their land to atone for crimes committed by Europeans.

Further, Ahmadinejad's rejection of U.S. and European calls to curb his country's nuclear program has only raised suspicions that Iran is trying to build atomic weapons in violation of its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Despite the Tehran regime's repeated denials that the nuclear program has only the peaceful aim of generating electricity, Israeli officials and politicians have openly discussed the possibility of attacking Iran to cripple its nuclear development capabilities.

Iranian democracy activists and some conservatives say Ahmadinejad's words are hurting the country, but his anti-Israel rhetoric resonates with militants in the hard-line camp, including Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"His comments have seriously tarnished the image of a great nation in the world," said reformist writer Ahmad Zeidabadi, who described Ahmadinejad as Iran's real enemy.

But Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, has implicitly supported Ahmadinejad, saying armed resistance, not negotiation, is the way to deal with Israel.

"There is no doubt that the president is acting in close coordination with the leader," hard-line lawmaker Emad Afrouq said. "Ahmadinejad is the closest president to Khamenei in the last 16 years."

Afrouq said the president's comments are "part of a strategy" to influence international public opinion about Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, not to lay the groundwork for war with the Jewish state.

"The bottom line is he wants to keep anti-Israeli sentiments alive," Afrouq said. "He doesn't think of military action."

Some see Ahmadinejad's rhetoric as part of a policy to boost his weak standing in Iran's complicated power structure, segments of which have attacked the new president on basic domestic issues such as unemployment and the economy.

"He wants to reinforce his position," said analyst Saeed Leilaz. "Rhetoric against Israel is the only thing he can say without strong challenge."

The European Union is offering economic aid in return for Iran dismantling its uranium enrichment program a "dual use" technology that can produce both fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity and the fissile material needed for atomic bombs.

Iran's government has said repeatedly it won't give up the right to produce its own nuclear fuel under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, raising the possibility of a showdown with the West that could lead to being referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

University professor Mahmoud Kashani, an Islamic conservative like Ahmadinejad, said the president's stances on Israel and the nuclear program are creating enemies, not friends, for Iran.

"People in the capital, Tehran, can't breath because of high air pollution and the economy is in tatters," said Kashani, a one-time presidential candidate. "Ahmadinejad's job is to solve these problems, not create tension in foreign relations."

But a hard-line Iranian group, Yavar, offered its backing to Ahmadinejad tough line.

"We support your excellency's remarks," Reza Aghanouri, head of the nongovernment group, said in a statement.


Iran tells West to be tolerant of Holocaust views

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust is a matter for academic discussion and the West should be more tolerant of his views, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

Ahmadinejad last week called the Holocaust a myth and suggested Israel be moved to Germany or Alaska, remarks that sparked international uproar and threaten diplomatic talks with Europe over Iran's nuclear programme.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi defended the president's remarks, which also drew a rebuke from the U.N. Security Council.

"What the president said is an academic issue. The West's reaction shows their continued support for Zionists," Asefi told a weekly news conference.

"Westerners are used to leading a monologue but they should learn to listen to different views," he added.

Some 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis and their allies between 1933 and 1945.

Ahmadinejad, a former Revolutionary Guardsman who was elected president, also said in October Israel was a "tumour" that must be "wiped off the map".

A statement drafted by European Union leaders described last week's Holocaust comment as "wholly unacceptable". The White House termed the remarks "outrageous".

Asefi denounced international condemnation as emotional and illogical.

"The EU statement is not based on international diplomatic norms. They should avoid illogical methods," he said.

"Westerners are used to leading a monologue, but they should learn to listen to different views."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the Holocaust remarks could weigh on European Union efforts to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

Britain, Germany and France had tentatively planned to hold talks later this month on the nuclear programme, which the United States and the EU fear is a cover to make nuclear bombs. Iran says it needs it to generate electricity.

When asked whether Ahmadinejad's remarks could hinder talks to resolve Iran's nuclear stand-off with the West, Asefi said: "We do not make any hasty judgment. But Iran's right should be respected. We will never abandon our right to nuclear technology."

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