A group of humanitarian organizations called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to use the second annual UN day commemorating Holocaust victims on Monday to specify Iran in his condemnation of Holocaust denial.
In a letter to Ban Ki-moon and other UN officials, the groups, which include the Freedom House, the Democracy Coalition Project, the Darfur Relief and Documentation Center, and UN Watch, said: "The ongoing racist campaign by Iran must be combated and publicly repudiated at each and every incident. Regrettably, diplomatically worded statements that do not specifically name Iran have failed to have the desired effect."
The groups' appeal to Ki-Moon coincided with the passing on Friday of a UN resolution introduced by the US and sponsored by 103 nations condemning any denial of the Holocaust, a resolution which did not name Iran.
The letter appealed to the UN officials to honor the UN commitment to Holocaust commemoration by "strongly rebuking Iran's campaign of Holocaust denial." It stated that Iran's continued denial "is further incitement to hatred and anti-Semitism," adding "Otherwise, the promise of "Never again" may ring hollow, yet again."
According to the Geneva-based UN Watch, Monday would be an appropriate day to condemn Iran's January 8 letter to the UN Human Rights Council in defense of the Teheran conference. Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said in a press release that the Iranian letter demanded a response from the UN.
The resolution and the letter follow a controversial conference in Teheran last month sponsored by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dedicated to Holocaust denial.
Ban Ki-moon, while he welcomed Friday's General Assembly adoption of the resolution, issued a statement that - like the resolution itself - did not mention Iran. The secretary general said the resolution reflected the prevailing view of the international community that "denial of historical facts such as the Holocaust [was] unacceptable."
In response to the resolution, Iran's delegate to the UN, Hossein Gharibi, rejected what he said was an attempt to misuse the General Assembly's procedures. According to a UN press statement, the Iranian representative accused the resolution's main sponsors of trying "pursue narrow political interests."
He claimed that Israel had "manipulated the sufferings of the Jewish people as a cover for crimes committed against Palestinians," and said that the international community must not allow Israel "to exploit past crimes as a pretext to commit new genocide."
"Only by studying objectively what happened in the past, can we ensure that such crimes will never be repeated again," said Gharibi. "The seriousness and sincerity of this endeavor would be indeed undermined by rendering political judgments on such events and closing the door to any inquiry on their characteristics, scope and extent."
Israel's ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman responded to the Iranian delegate's comments, saying that Iran was in the process of acquiring weapons of mass destruction at the same time the rest of the world was concerned that events like the Holocaust would not reoccur.
"While the nations of the world gather here to affirm the historicity of the Holocaust with the intent of never again allowing genocide, a member of this assembly is acquiring the capabilities of carrying out its own," said Gillerman. "The president of Iran is in fact saying, 'There really was no Holocaust, but just in case, we shall finish the job."'
AP contributed to this report.