Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the historic dimensions of the Holocaust but rejected the label of an anti-Semite, the Fars news agency reported Friday.
“The West made a claim – about the Holocaust – and urges all the people in the world to accept it or otherwise go to prison,” Ahmadinejad told a group of Islamic scholars Thursday in Nigeria, where he attended a summit of the Developing Eight, a group of countries with large Muslim populations.
“The West allows everybody to question prophets and even God but not to pose a simple question and open the black box of a historic event,” he charged.
Ahmadinejad had earlier sparked international fury by calling for the eradication of Israel from the Middle East and its relocation to Europe or North America and by describing the murders of 6 million European Jews by Germany’s Nazi regime as a “fairy tale.”
He said Thursday that the Holocaust was an excuse for Israel and the West to take land away from millions of Palestinians and give it to Israel.
Iran does not recognize Israel and maintains that a referendum by all Palestinians, including refugees, and Jews should decide the future fate of a Palestinian state.
“We are after a diplomatic settlement through a referendum, but they [the West] say Ahmadinejad wants to kill people and is an anti-Semite,” the Iranian president said.
“No, this is wrong,” he added. “I love all Muslims, Christians and Jews. What I dislike are the Zionists, which are a party that has availed itself of the Holocaust as an excuse to establish the illegitimate state of Israel.”
The West fears the political differences between Iran and Israel might lead to a military confrontation between the two countries.
The international concern has increased amid fears that Iran might be using its nuclear program to make an atomic bomb.
Iran possesses 2,000-kilometer range missiles capable of targeting any part of Israel.
Tehran has said it has no secret nuclear projects and all its military capabilities were merely for the purpose of self-defense and deterrence.
But Tehran also warned that if Israel attacks the country’s nuclear sites, Iran would use its missiles to bomb Israel in retaliation.
See Related: ANNE FRANK GOES COMIC
See Related: HOLOCAUST
SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY