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International
Wednesday, 13-December-2006
(Bloomberg) -- - Israel will `vanish' just like the Soviet Union collapsed, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a conference in Tehran that questions the Holocaust.

``As the Soviet Union disappeared, the Zionist regime will also vanish and humanity will be liberated,'' the official Islamic Republic News Agency cited Ahmadinejad as telling the conference yesterday.

The president's remarks are ``outrageous,'' U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington, according to a transcript. It is hard to find words for his ``despicable behavior,'' he added.

Ahmadinejad, pronounced ah-ma-deen-ah-ZHAD, a year ago said that the Holocaust was a myth created by the West. He also said Israel should be ``wiped off the map.'' Iran hosted the two-day conference that ended yesterday in Tehran, giving a forum to Holocaust deniers who dismiss as fiction or exaggeration the killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis during World War II.

The threat from Israel ``has caused the regional countries to divert their resources from development to spending them on purchasing arms which will increase discord among them,'' Ahmadinejad told the meeting, IRNA reported.

``If the Holocaust's truth is ruled out, root causes of problems and crimes in the Middle East will be terminated,'' the president said. Iran supported the creation of a fact-finding mission on the Holocaust, as proposed by the conference, that will put an end to a 60-yearlong dispute on the issue, he said.

Conference Condemned

The Bush administration yesterday condemned the Tehran conference and said the U.S. maintains support for those in Iran who stand against oppression.

``The gathering of Holocaust deniers in Tehran is an affront to the entire civilized world, as well as to the traditional Iranian values of tolerance and mutual respect,'' White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said in a statement issued in Washington.

``The Iranian regime perversely seeks to call the historical fact of those atrocities into question and provide a platform for hatred,'' Snow said. ``The United States will continue to support those in Iran and elsewhere who seek to promote human rights and dignity.''

U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also condemned the meeting. Iran's denial of the Holocaust ``demonstrates the danger that emanates from such a regime and the dangers for Israel and many other countries if such a state possesses non- conventional weapons,'' Olmert said at a news conference with Merkel in Berlin.

Systematic Killings

Germany's Nazis killed 6 million of Europe's 9 million Jews between 1939 and 1945 in a ``systematic, bureaucratic and state- sponsored campaign,'' according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

Proof of the Holocaust has come from survivors of Nazi death camps, camp guards, government documents and testimony in the 1945 Nuremburg war crimes hearings. Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in a 2005 speech called the Holocaust ``the darkest chapter'' in Germany's history.

The U.S. rebuke comes as President George W. Bush is trying to pressure Iran to abandon a nuclear program that his administration says is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran insists its program is only for producing energy.

Nuclear Weapons

Olmert, in an interview with German television two days ago, included Israel on a list of nuclear-armed nations. His comment came after he was asked whether Israel's possession of nuclear weapons weakened the argument from western countries against Iran's nuclear program.

``We never threatened any nation with annihilation,'' Olmert responded. ``Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as France, America, Russia and Israel?''

Olmert yesterday declined to respond directly when asked at a news conference in Berlin if he would confirm whether his country is armed with atomic warheads.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that it has such weapons. It hasn't signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which 188 countries are signatories.

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