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11 Dec 2006 00:00
Iran this week announced details of a conference questioning whether the Holocaust really happened, prompted by an international outcry a year ago when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis as “myth” fabricated to justify Israel.
The foreign ministry said “intellectuals and researchers” from 30 countries would attend Studying the Holocaust: An International View in Tehran on Monday and Tuesday.
Participants will consider documentary, pictorial, physical and demographic evidence in what Iranian officials depict as an academic investigation to establish the Holocaust’s authenticity and whether the reported number of victims was exaggerated. Organisers say it will include submissions for and against.
It will also focus on the plight of the Palestinians.
The conference will have six panel discussions and an open forum.
Manouchehr Mohammadi, the foreign ministry’s research and education officer, said the conference was intended as a platform for open discussion of the Holocaust, which Iran claims is denied in the West.
“Our aim is to scientifically study the Holocaust and listen to both sides before reaching a conclusion,” Mohammadi said. “This issue has a crucial role regarding the West’s policies towards the countries of the Middle East, especially the Palestinians. Iran isn’t against or for. We weren’t involved in this event so we can be a neutral judge. It is important for us to know the answer so that we can process our stances to issues in this region. If we conclude that the Holocaust happened, we will admit it but we are still going to ask why Palestinians have to pay.”
He said it would not be a forum for anti-Semites or neo-Nazis, and rabbis would attend. “Our policy doesn’t mean we want to defend the crimes of Hitler.”
Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and has said its inhabitants should go to Europe or Alaska.
Karen Pollock, of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “To hold a state-sponsored conference questioning the truth of the Holocaust is not only deeply disturbing but a huge insult to Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims.”—Â
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