Ahmadinejad's holocaust comments 'abhorrent'

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Comments by Iran's president questioning the Holocaust were branded "abhorrent as well as ignorant" by Foreign Secretary David Miliband today.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told worshippers at Friday prayers at Tehran University the state of Israel was founded on "a false and mythical claim" and expressed doubts over whether the Nazi murder of around six million Jews during the Second World War was "a real event".

Speaking on Iran's national Quds Day - staged to show sympathy for the Palestinians and named after the Arabic word for Jerusalem - Mr Ahmadinejad asked: "If the Holocaust was a real event, why don't they allow research on it to clear up facts?"

Shortly after his election in 2005, Mr Ahmadinejad sparked international condemnation by describing the Holocaust as a "myth" and he was widely criticised the following year for hosting a conference attended by Holocaust deniers in Iran.

Responding to today's comments, Mr Miliband said: "President Ahmadinejad's repeated denials of the Holocaust are abhorrent as well as ignorant. It is very important that the world community stands up against this tide of abuse. This outburst is not worthy of the leader of Iran.

"Iran's people have a great history and culture. I cannot believe that the vast majority of them want to rewrite this chapter of history rather than focus on the future.

"The coincidence of today's comments with the start of Jewish New Year only adds to the insult."

Mr Ahmadinejad also accused the international community of showing double standards in its treatment of Israel and Iran.

The United Nations "issue resolutions when a cat is run over by a truck on the streets here, but when it comes to Israel, they cover up crimes," he said.