Criticism Continues as Iran Defends Anti-Israeli Statement

( [email protected] ) Dec 19, 2005 10:16 PM EST

Iranian authorities again irked the international public by saying their president’s denial of the Holocaust is a matter for academic discussion and calling on the West to be more tolerant of his views.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week called the Holocaust a myth and suggested that Israel be moved to Germany or Alaska, sparking an international uproar from political and religious leaders alike.

"The State of Israel has embodied the hopes and dreams of Jews worldwide for decades, especially since the Holocaust that occurred during World War II," read a released statement from the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC). "President Ahmadinejad’s invective that the Holocaust never happened is a sobering reminder of the corrosive power of ignorance, desperation, and hatred."

However on Sunday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi defended the president’s remarks, saying the criticisms are a sign of the Westerners’ "monologue" on the Israel question.

"What the president said is an academic issue. The West's reaction shows their continued support for Zionists," Asefi told a weekly news conference, according to the Associated Press. "Westerners are used to leading a monologue but they should learn to listen to different views."

Last week, the European Union described the Holocaust comment as "wholly unacceptable." The White House termed the remarks as "outrageous." China chimed in on condemning the statements, as did the Vatican.

Some 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis and their allies between 1933 and 1945.