A group of humanitarian organizations has called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to use the second annual UN day commemorating Holocaust victims on Monday to strongly and specifically condemn Iran's ongoing denials of the Holocaust. In a letter to Ban Ki-moon and other UN officials the organizations, which include the Freedom House, the Democracy Coalition Project, the Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre and UN Watch, said: "The ongoing racist campaign by Iran must be combatted 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 letter sent on Friday coincided with the passing of a UN resolution, which did not name Iran, condemning any denial of the Holocaust. The US-introduced resolution with 103 sponsors reaffirmed a landmark 2005 resolution that established the annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
Column One: Making the case against genocide
The resolution and the letter follow a controversial conference in Teheran last month sponsored by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that brought together well-known Holocaust deniers.
Ban Ki-moon welcomed Friday's General Assembly adoption of the resolution in a statement that did not mention Iran, but which Iran rejected.
According to the statement the secretary-general said the resolution reflects the prevailing view of the international community and that "denial of historical facts such as the Holocaust is unacceptable."
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, a signatory to the letter, Monday would be an appropriate day to condemn Iran's January 8 letter to the UN Human Rights Council defending the Teheran conference questioning the Holocaust.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said in a press release that the Iranian letter demanded a response from the UN and that "If not on the UN's day of Holocaust commemoration, then when?"
In response to the resolution, Iran's representative 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 to "pursue narrow political interests."
"Only by studying objectively what happened in the past, can we ensure that such crimes will never be repeated again," said Iranian delegate Hossein 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."
"The Israeli regime has routinely attempted to exploit the sufferings of the Jewish people in the past as a cover for the crimes its has perpetrated over the past six decades against Palestinians," he added.
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."'
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement praising the passage of the resolution, and saying that it "reflects the special importance with which the international community views the subject, especially considering the worrying phenomenon of denial that has cropped up lately, and provides a strong answer to the message of the president of Iran and the Teheran Holocaust Conference."
The statement also stressed that 103 states "took upon themselves to be the main sponsors of the resolution."
Herb Keinon and AP contributed to this report.