Iran said Sunday it would go ahead and sponsor a conference to examine the scientific evidence supporting the Holocaust in the autumn, dismissing it as exaggerated. The move to proceed with the controversial conference, likely to deepen Teheran's international isolation, came as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan raised concerns with Iranian officials over an exhibition of cartoons about the Holocaust.
EU gives Iran last chance for diplomacy
Hard-line President Ahmoud Ahmadinejad already had called the Nazis' World War II slaughter of 6 million European Jews a myth and said the Jewish state should be wiped off the map or moved to Germany or the United States. Those remarks prompted a global outpouring of condemnation.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said that because the Holocaust is a scientific issue, both opponents and proponents of the existence of the Holocaust could participate.
"God willing, a conference on the Holocaust will be held in the autumn. The Holocaust is not a sacred issue that one can't touch," he told reporters. "I have visited the Nazi camps in Eastern Europe. I think it is exaggerated," Asefi said.
Asefi did not disclose where the Holocaust conference would be held, nor who would attend. Iran first raised the possibility of the conference in January.
Annan brought up the exhibit that opened in response to Muslim outrage over the Prophet Muhammad caricatures. In talks Saturday with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, said Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.
Annan told Mottaki "we should avoid anything that incites hatred" according to Fawzi.
The Holocaust cartoon exhibit opened last month at Teheran's Caricature House, with 204 entries from Iran and abroad.
The cartoons were submitted after the exhibit's co-sponsor, the Hamshahri newspaper, said it wanted to test the West's tolerance for drawings about the Nazis' mass murder of European Jews during World War II. The entries on display came from nations including United States, Indonesia and Turkey.