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Iran to Host Conference on Holocaust

NASSER KARIMI / AP | September 3 2006

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran said Sunday it would sponsor a conference to examine the scientific evidence supporting the Holocaust, dismissing it as exaggerated.

The decision came as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan raised concerns with Iranian officials over an exhibition of cartoons about the Holocaust in Iran's capital, Tehran.

Hard-line President Ahmoud Ahmadinejad has called the Nazis' slaughter of 6 million Jews a myth and said Israel should be wiped off the map or moved to Germany or the United States. His remarks prompted a global outpouring of condemnation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said both opponents and proponents of the existence of the Holocaust could participate in the conference.

"God willing, a conference on the Holocaust will be held in the autumn. The Holocaust is not a sacred issue that one can't touch," he told reporters. "I have visited the Nazi camps in Eastern Europe. I think it is exaggerated."

Asefi did not disclose where the Holocaust conference would be held, nor who would attend. Iran first raised the possibility of the conference in January.

Annan brought up the exhibit, which opened in response to Muslim outrage over the Prophet Muhammad caricatures, in talks Saturday with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, said Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.

Annan told Mottaki "we should avoid anything that incites hatred" according to Fawzi.

The Holocaust cartoon exhibit opened last month at Tehran's Caricature House, with 204 entries from Iran and abroad.

The cartoons were submitted after the exhibit's co-sponsor, the Hamshahri newspaper, said it wanted to test the West's tolerance for drawings about the Nazis' mass murder of European Jews during World War II. The entries on display came from nations including United States, Indonesia and Turkey.

Israel considers Iran a threat and has refused to rule out military force to destroy Iran's nuclear program. Iran has said its nuclear program is intended only to generate electricity, but Western countries suspect the country is trying to build an atomic bomb.

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