President 'wanted to annoy West'

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The Independent Online

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday he was proud his denial of the Holocaust had enraged the West.

Even as the controversial leader geared up for a UN trip to stress what he said would be a message of "peace and friendship, the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying: "The anger of the world's professional killers is [a source of] pride for us."

He was responding to a question about criticism from the EU after he expressed doubts that the Holocaust was a "real event". The "killers" reference appeared to be directed primarily at Israel and the US.

President Ahmadinejad's weekend comment about the killing of millions of Jews during the Second World War comes as Iran is locked in a bitter dispute with the US and other Western nations over its nuclear programme.

The US and others believe Iran is looking to enrich uranium with an eye to nuclear weapons production. Iranian officials deny this, saying the programme is for purely peaceful purposes.

Mr Ahmadinejad arrives in New York today and is set to address the UN tomorrow.

"The most important message of this year's visit is peace and friendship for all nations, fighting suppression and interaction with all nations in the framework of justice and mutual respect," a spokesman from the President's office told IRNA.