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German church leaders on Saturday joined international protests against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's demand that Israel be moved to Europe and his statement doubting whether the Holocaust happened.
Roman Catholic Cardinal Karl Lehmann said he was "outraged," and urged Ahmadinejad to show respect for other nations and religions, according to remarks to be published in Sunday's Frankfurter Allgemine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.
The Iranian leader's remarks also exacerbated existing concerns in the West about the country's nuclear program, which the United States says is part of an effort to produce atomic weapons. Iran has said its program is purely for generating electricity.
Ahmadinejad's remarks on Israel, Lehmann said, only encouraged those political concerns "if it is true that Persia is on the way to making nuclear bombs."
Luthern Church leader Wolfgang Huber said the international community needed to take action against Iran, but he did not elaborate.
"Whoever denies the historical fact of the murder of millions of Jews during the Third Reich in Germany and denies Israel's right to exist has committed incitement," Huber was quoted by the same newspaper as saying.
Incitement to racial hatred is a crime in Germany.
Meanwhile, Paul Spiegel, the head of Germany's Jewish community, said Ahmadinejad's remarks were "the worst that I have heard from a statesman in this regard since Adolf Hitler."
Spiegel, speaking late Friday on ZDF television, said he had urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel to go beyond verbally condemning Ahmadinejad. He said Germany should re-examine its diplomatic and economic ties with Tehran.
The United States, Israel, Europe, United Nations and even Iranian ally Russia have condemned Ahmadinejad for his remarks Thursday casting doubt on whether the Nazi Holocaust took place and suggesting Europe give land for a Jewish state if it felt guilty about it.
Ahmadinejad in October sparked a similar international storm when he said Israel should be "wiped off the map."
Speaking to reporters at an Islamic summit in Mecca on Thursday, Ahmadinejad said, "Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces.... Although we don't accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, our question for the Europeans is: Is the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem? If the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe - like in Germany, Austria or other countries - to the Zionists and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe."
The Iranian leader's remarks exacerbated existing concerns in the West about the country's nuclear program, which the United States says is part of an effort to produce atomic weapons. Iran has said its program is purely for generating electricity.
The Anti-Defamation League called on the UN Security Council to impose punitive measures against Iran, including sanctions, following Ahmadinejad's statement.
"Once again, the Iranian regime has shown the world that it is a nation controlled by extremists and is a pariah in the international community of nations," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.
"It is time for the Security Council to act. Iran has thumbed its nose at the world by repeatedly violating the United Nations charter in calling for the destruction of a member state while continuing on its destructive path toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism abroad. Its actions are disgraceful, particularly for a UN member."
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