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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 12:54 GMT
Iran to host meeting on Holocaust
By Frances Harrison
BBC News, Tehran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Iranian president has said the Holocaust is a myth
Iran's foreign ministry will host an international conference in Tehran next week that will ask if the Holocaust in World War II actually happened.

An official said 67 foreign scholars from 30 countries would be attending, but refused to say who they were.

In February, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused controversy by saying the Holocaust was a myth.

The remark was condemned by Jews around the world. Six million Jews were killed by the German Nazis during the war.

A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, Manouchehr Mohammadi, said the two-day conference would begin on 11 December.

'Passports taken away'

Mr Mohammadi refused to identify the scholars who would attend because, he said, some of them had had their passports taken away by foreign governments to prevent them attending.

He said the idea of a Holocaust conference had first been proposed by President Ahmadinejad, and the first question to be posed was - did the Holocaust actually happen or not?

An Iranian Jew lights candles of the Menorah
Iran has a small Jewish community

If it did happen, he added, then the next question to be discussed at the conference was how many Jews were killed - and why are the Palestinians suffering today because of what happened in Europe 50 years ago?

Mr Mohammadi said the West claimed it has freedom of speech, but it did not allow scholars to question the Holocaust.

He asked why European countries allowed Islamic sanctities like the Prophet Mohammed to be insulted, but could not tolerate debate on the Holocaust.

The Iranian government said some Jews would be attending the conference, including rabbis, but it was vague as to whether they included any Holocaust survivors, and officials ruled out any Israelis participating.

This is Iran's answer to the debate about freedom of speech over the cartoons insulting the Prophet Mohammed, and its way of trying to woo radical support in the Middle East for its anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian policies.

There is no doubt the conference will cause outrage internationally.

But inside Iran, the issue of the Holocaust is not a major one, and many young people do not even know much about it.




SEE ALSO
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20 Oct 06 |  Middle East
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21 Sep 06 |  Middle East
Iranian leader denies Holocaust
14 Dec 05 |  Middle East

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