Vatican defends presence at UN race conference

The Vatican said Monday that comments by Iran's president at the UN racism conference were "extremist and unacceptable." But it defended its own presence at the meeting against criticism by Jews. Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican was attending the Geneva meeting because it was an "important occasion to take the fight against racism and intolerance forward." The conference was marred at its opening Monday when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the Holocaust as a "pretext" for aggression against Palestinians, prompting European diplomats to walk out. Lombardi said the Vatican delegation remained in its seats. In a statement, Lombardi said that Ahmadinejad didn't deny the Holocaust or Israel's right to exist during his speech. But Lombardi said he did "have extremist and unacceptable expressions." "For this reason, it's important to continue to clearly affirm the respect for the dignity of every human person against every form of racism and intolerance," Lombardi said.