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Argentina kicks out 'no Holocaust' bishop

Argentina has thrown out Holocaust-denying British bishop Richard Williamson, saying he must leave the country in 10 days.

The Interior Ministry said last night Williamson had failed to declare his true job as director of a seminary on immigration forms and because his comments on the Holocaust "profoundly insult Argentine society, the Jewish community and all of humanity by denying an historic truth".

Williamson's views created an uproar last month when Pope Benedict XVI lifted his excommunication and that of three other bishops consecrated by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre as part of a process meant to heal a rift with ultra-conservatives.

The flap led the Vatican to demand that the clergyman recant before he could be admitted as a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church. It also prompted the Society of St Pius X, founded by Lefebvre, to dismiss Williamson as director of the La Reja seminary in Argentina and to distance itself from his views.

The Vatican had no comment on the Argentine action.

Although Williamson has been in Argentina since 2003, the government's secretary for religious affairs, Guillermo Oliveri, said immigration officials only realised he had made an undeclared change of jobs when the controversy hit the press.

But Mr Oliveri made clear the Holocaust uproar played a key part.

"I absolutely agree with the expulsion of a man residing in our country following his statements (denying) one of the greatest human tragedies," he said.

It was not clear when or where Williamson would go. A person who answered the phone at the Society of St Pius X said Williamson was still in the country, then hung up.

In an interview broadcast on January 21, Williamson told Swedish state TV that no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust and only 200,000 to 300,000 were killed, not six million.

He also questioned the Holocaust while serving in the USA as rector of the St Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minnisota, between 1988 and 2003.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Williamson declared in a 1989 speech in Canada that "Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism".

"There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies," Williamson said in the speech at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes Church in Sherbrooke, Quebec, the Jewish group said in a report posted on the internet.

He was quoted as asserting that "the Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new state of Israel".

The remarks caused an especially strong reaction among Argentina's Jewish community, one of the world's largest.

"We celebrate the government's decision to expel (Williamson) because denial of the Holocaust is unacceptable," Aldo Donzis, president of the Argentine Delegation of Israeli Associations told the AJN news service in Buenos Aires.

Williamson's statements "also affect the coexistence and social peace that our country needs so much," said Julio Schlosser, director of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association.

The head of Williamson's Swiss-based society, Monsignor Bernard Fellay, said in an interview published on Monday that his colleague should be given time to reconsider his denials that the Holocaust occurred, at least on a massive scale.

"He's working on the issue and he is responsible," Mr Fellay told Swiss daily Le Nouvelliste.

"But we have to give him time because he wants to study seriously so that he can give a sincere and true response."