Iran president says Holocaust "pretext" to form Israel

TEHRAN Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:43am EDT

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday the Holocaust was a "lie" and a pretext to create a Jewish state that Iranians had a religious duty to confront.

"The pretext (Holocaust) for the creation of the Zionist regime (Israel) is false ... It is a lie based on an unprovable and mythical claim," he told worshippers at Tehran University at the end of an annual anti-Israel "Qods (Jerusalem) Day" rally.

"Confronting the Zionist regime (Israel) is a national and religious duty."

Since coming to power in 2005, Ahmadinejad has provoked international condemnation for saying the Holocaust was a "myth" and calling Israel a "tumor" in the Middle East.

His government held a conference in 2006 questioning the fact that Nazis used gas chambers to kill 6 million Jews in World War Two.

Ahmadinejad's critics say his fiery anti-Western speeches and questioning of the Holocaust have isolated Iran, which is at odds with the West over its disputed nuclear program.

The hardline president, who often rails against Israel and the West, warned leaders of Western-allied Arab and Muslim countries about dealing with Israel.

"This regime (Israel) will not last long. Do not tie your fate to it ... This regime has no future. Its life has come to an end," he said in a speech broadcast live on state radio.

European countries have criticized the hardline president for his views on Israel, which Iran refuses to recognize since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

Israel, the United States and their European allies suspect Iran of trying to use its nuclear program to build an atomic bomb. Tehran insists its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity.

RIGHTS OF PALESTINIANS

Ahmadinejad said Iran rejected any Middle East peace plan that did not guarantee the rights of the Palestinians.

"The Palestinians should know that they owe everything to their resistance," he said, rejecting any solutions based on compromises.

The hardline leader played down the importance of any protests he may face in New York during his upcoming trip to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

"These futile actions have no political value. The Iranian nation will not blink an eye over your actions," he said to chants of "Death to Israel."

Ahmadinejad railed against the United States during his previous appearances at the General Assembly, which takes place at the U.N. headquarters on international territory on the east side of Manhattan.

All world leaders are invited to the annual gathering in September, to the discomfort of the United States which has been forced over the years to allow in foes like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Ahmadinejad.

(Additional reporting by Firouz Sedarat, Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Charles Dick)

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