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Unlikely Holocaust Conference Opens In Iran
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Initiated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran opened a two-day international conference on Monday dubbed "Study of the Holocaust: A Global Perspective,".

Ahmadinejad has described the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed, as a "myth". Even before it opened, the gathering was harshly condemned by Germany, the United States and Israel.

However, Iran has insisted that the conference aims to provide a venue for free discussions on "a historical issue." It will focus on discussing the scale of the Holocaust and whether the Nazis really used gas chambers to kill Jews.

"The objective of the conference is not to deny or prove the Holocaust. Its main aim is to create an atmosphere for thinkers to freely discuss the Holocaust," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told the opening ceremony.

There was "no logical reason for opposing this conference," Mottaki added.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry's Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), which organized the conference, said 67 researchers from 30 countries would attend the meeting.

Among the participants were the prominent French holocaust-denier, Robert Faurisson, and six members of the group Jews United Against Zionism, garbed in the traditional long black coats and black hats of orthodox Jews.

"Some people who had been asked to attend refused, saying it aims to deny the Holocaust. Others assumed the international conference was politically motivated and were reluctant to attend," IPIS chief Rassoul Moussavi said.

"Officials in charge of organizing the conference do not intend to deny or confirm it (the Holocaust). The duty of the IPIS is to create a suitable atmosphere for discussing historical issues," he said.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has strongly opposed any attempt to question or deny the Holocaust, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday, underlining that Annan would deeply deplore any conference purporting question or deny the reality of the Holocaust.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Friday that "this meeting is really focused on highlighting those people who deny that there was, in fact, a Holocaust. In that regard, it's just yet another disgraceful act on this particular subject by the regime in Tehran."

The German Foreign Ministry called in Iran's top envoy to Berlin on Friday in protest the conference.

In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called on the world to protest the conference, terming it "a sick phenomenon."

Israel's official Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, issued a statement condemning the Teheran conference as an attempt to "paint (an) extremist agenda with a scholarly brush."

(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily December 12, 2006)

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