Iranian president says Holocaust is "myth" - 14 December, 2005 - News

Iran's hard-liner president escalated his rhetoric against Israel on Wednesday, calling the Nazi Holocaust a "myth, and drew a barrage of condemnations from Israel, the United States and Europe, which warned he is hurting Iran's position in crucial nuclear negotiations.

The White House said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments show why Iran must not develop nuclear weapons. Germany, one of the countries leading the nuclear talks with Tehran, blasted the remarks as "shocking and unacceptable."

Iran and the Europeans are due to resume the U.S.-backed negotiations soon, possibly in late December, trying to find a compromise on reining in Tehran's nuclear program, which Washington says secretly aims to build warheads. Iran says its nuclear intentions are peaceful, aiming only to produce electricity, and has refused to give up key parts of the program.

The fallout on the negotiations fromthe increased anger at Iran is difficult to measure. The Europeans have not threatened to call off talks they see as vital to resolving fears over Iran's nuclear ambitions. But Ahmadinejad's words _ which come as the top U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has said it is losing patience with Tehran _ could lead the European to take a tougher stance.

So far, Ahmedinejad has appeared to only escalate his rhetoric in the face of criticism, suggesting he may be seeking to fire up supporters at home.

Some of his conservative allies in Iran have warned that he is isolating the country at a time when it needs support for its nuclear program. But supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final word on all matters, has stood by the president, even calling this week for Palestinian militants to step up their fight against Israel to drive them out of Jerusalem.

Ahmadinejad first provoked an international outcry in October when he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." When that drew international anger, he responded by holding large anti-Israel rallies.

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