September 3, 2006

Annan tells Iran Holocaust is undeniable

By Edmund Blair

TEHRAN (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told
Iranians the Holocaust was "an undeniable historical fact" on
Sunday after meeting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who caused
outrage in the West when he said it was a "myth."

Annan also condemned an exhibition of Holocaust cartoons in
Tehran that was staged by an Iranian newspaper in retaliation
for the September publication of caricatures of the Muslim
Prophet Mohammad in Danish and other European newspapers.

Those drawings angered many Muslims and prompted attacks on
European embassies, including missions in Iran.

"I think all of us in this room remember the uproar the
Danish cartoons created particularly in this region," Annan
said, adding that the right to freedom of expression had to be
exercised with sensitivity and responsibility.

"I think the tragedy of the Holocaust is a sad and an
undeniable historical fact so we should really handle that,
accept that fact and teach children what happened in World War
Two and ensure that it is never repeated.

"We should be careful not to say anything that is used as
an excuse for incitement to hatred or violence," he said.

Ahmadinejad described the Holocaust, in which 6 million
Jews were killed by the Nazis, as a "myth" in December. He has
not repeated that remark but has said the event is open to

Annan canceled a trip to Iran in November after Ahmadinejad
called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." That phrase also
sparked Western condemnation and he has not repeated it. But
his speeches are peppered with anti-Israel rhetoric.


A U.N. spokesman said Annan condemned the Holocaust
cartoons as "distasteful" in Saturday's talks with Foreign
Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. A leading American Jewish group
had urged Annan to speak out against the exhibition when in

Speaking at Sunday's news conference with Annan, Mottaki
said: "Historical issues can be studied and discussed by
experts. What we both agree upon ... is the importance of
prohibiting insults."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also told a
separate news conference the Holocaust was "not a sacred issue
that we cannot touch" and said a Holocaust conference would be
held in Iran in the autumn.

"I have seen those camps myself. When I was an ambassador,
I visited several of these camps. In my opinion, there has been
a lot of exaggeration going on," Asefi said

More than 200 entries from the Holocaust competition have
been put on display in Iran. Organizers said in mid-August, two
weeks before the deadline, they had received about 1,200

The contest was originally on the Holocaust but
international criticism prompted Iran's best-selling daily
Hamshahri, which organized the competition, to broaden the
rules to include any caricature that tests "freedom of

One cartoon showed the Statue of Liberty holding a
Holocaust book while giving a Nazi salute and another showed a
turtle with a U.S. emblem laying eggs carrying the Star of

The messages of the cartoons were not always clear, though
several seemed to poke fun at the United States. One showed
Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler smiling as he stood behind President
Bush while bombs carrying the Star of David fell.