TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s president accused Israel on Friday of using the Holocaust as a pretext for “genocide” against Palestinians.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who outraged the West in 2005 by calling Israel a “tumour” to be wiped off the map, said the truth should be told about World War Two and the Holocaust.
Six million Jews were killed in the Nazi genocide.
“Iran condemns fabricating such a pretext (the Holocaust) for the Zionist regime to commit genocide against the Palestinian nation and occupy Palestine,” Ahmadinejad said in a live broadcast to mark the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in the Islamic Republic.
“The Iranian nation and countries in the region will not rest until Palestine is free and criminals punished,” he said in the speech before Friday prayers.
Ahmadinejad has questioned the Holocaust but denied during a visit last month to the United States he was saying it never happened, only that the Palestinian issue was entirely separate.
Opposition to Israel is one of the cornerstones of belief of Shi’ite Iran, which backs Palestinian and Lebanese Islamic militant groups opposed to peace with the Jewish state.
Ahmadinejad repeated calls for Canada to accept Jews.
“Europeans cannot tolerate the Zionist regime’s presence in their own region but want to impose it on the Middle East. Give them (the Jews) this vast land of Canada and Alaska to build themselves a home and resettle there,” he said.
Al-Quds Day was inaugurated by Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It is held on the last Friday of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Tens of thousands marched in a rally to mark the day, including soldiers, students and clerics. Black-clad women with small children clutching balloons emblazoned “Death to Israel” were among those flocking the streets of central Tehran.
“Death to America, Death to Israel,” chanted the marchers, many carrying portraits of Khomeini and his successor Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Volunteer Basij militia, covering their faces with Palestinian headscarves, marched while roaring “Hezbollah fights, Israel trembles” — referring to the Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group Israel fought a war against last year.
“We came here to show our support to the Palestinian nation and their resistance,” said retired teacher Abdollah Hassani, 58, who joined the rally with his wife, carrying a sign reading “Israel must be obliterated”.
State television showed footage of similar marches, held in cities across Iran on Al-Quds Day. Demonstrators in Tehran burned flags of the United States and Israel, which Iran refuses to recognise.
The United States and Israel accuse Iran of “interference” in Iraq, through backing Shi’ite militias, and of sponsoring terrorism, including the Palestinian group Hamas and Hezbollah. Tehran denies the charges.
The United States and Iran, who have not had diplomatic ties since shortly after Iran’s revolution, are also embroiled in a deepening rift over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Ahmadinejad said Iran would continue its nuclear programme despite international pressure, adding “Iran wants to remove international concerns over its atomic work through talks.”
“But if they (the West) want to start a new game it will have no result for them but regret,” he said.
Six world powers agreed last Friday to delay toughening U.N. sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme until November at the earliest to wait for reports by U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei and European Union negotiator Javier Solana.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed two sanctions resolutions on Iran after it failed to suspend sensitive activities such as uranium enrichment.