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Relentlessly unapologetic: Iranian President Ahmadinejad is known for his bombastic rhetoricImage: AP

Iranian Leader Denies Holocaust, Drops Plan to Visit World Cup

DW staff / AFP (tt)
May 29, 2006

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dropped plans to attend the World Cup in Germany. This comes after he again denied the Holocaust in an interview with a German magazine on Monday.


Football-mad President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not be travelling to Germany to watch Iran's World Cup clashes, his spokesman told AFP Monday.

"No, he will not attend," said government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham, putting an end to speculation that the hard-line president may be seeking to head to Germany.

"He plays football and likes the game, but I don't know whether he will get the time to watch the games," the spokesman replied when asked if Ahmadinejad would be watching at home on television.

Waiting game over

The news about the possibility of Ahmadinejad supporting the Iranian national team in person at the June 9-July 9 World Cup finals raised some eyebrows, especially after the Iranian president's provocative interview for a prominent German weekly Der Spiegel. In this interview, which was published on Monday, Ahmadinejad said he doubted the Holocaust really happened, and repeated earlier calls for Jews to leave Israel and return to Europe.

Holocaust Gedenkfeier Israel
Iran's president has enraged the Jewish community by denying that the Holocaust took placeImage: AP

Reacting to Ahmadinejad latest anti-Semitic outburst, an international Jewish human rights group had urged Germany to keep Ahmadinejad from attending the games

"Whether they say it publicly or privately, they should tell Ahmadinejad that he is unwelcome to attend the World Cup and that his presence there would be an affront to the millions of Jews and non-Jews who perished in the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

'Jews should go back where they came from'

In his interview for Der Spiegel, Ahmadinejad refused once again to acknowledge the Holocaust.

"I will only accept something as an absolute truth if I am fully convinced," Ahmadinejad said."If the Holocaust happened, then Europe should suffer the consequences and not let Palestine pay the price. If nothing happened, then the Jews should go back to where they came from."

He said five million Palestinians have been "stateless" since the end of World War II because of the creation of Israel.

"It is astonishing. They have been paying for the Holocaust for the past 60 years and they will do so still for another 100 years."

A notorious leader

Iran Atomkraftwerk Bushehr
Ahmadinejad also defends Iran's right to use nuclear energy. Here, the country's Bushehr nuclear plantImage: AP

Ahmadinejad, who is notorious for his anti-Semitic outbursts, said he believed it was wrong that modern-day Germany should repent for what was done by the country's former Nazi rulers.

"How long will this carry on? For how long will the German nation be the whipping boy of the Zionists?" he asked.

The Iranian president has alternately called for the relocation and the destruction of the Jewish state, warning on May 11 that Israel will "one day vanish."

In the interview that turned into a rambling ideological debate with Spiegel reporters, Ahmadinejad insisted that Iran's controversial nuclear program was for peaceful purposes.

"I insist again that we do not need nuclear weapons, we only want to avail ourselves of our rights. We have not cheated anybody," he said.

Europe -- a big loser?

Strassenschilder mit dem Willkommengruss an die in- und auslaendischen Besucher zur WM06 werden an Autobahnen aufgestellt WM06 Fussball Vermischtes
The Iranian president will not be making new friends in Germany this summerImage: AP

Ahmadinejad said Iran was against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and believed a neutral organization should be created to oversee global nuclear disarmament.

He added that it was unjust that Western nations that had nuclear weapons were trying to persuade Tehran to give up parts of its nuclear program.

"These countries strayed from having nuclear power merely for peaceful purposes. They do not have the right to speak to us the way they do," he said.

He added that Europe had made a mistake by siding with the US in the standoff over Iran's sensitive nuclear research, which Washington believes is masking a nuclear weapons program.

"Europe will be the big loser, achieving nothing. Europe is losing its role in the Middle East, and it is losing its influence in the rest of the world," he said.

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