TEHRAN, June 25, 2006 (AFP) – Iran said Sunday it was still going ahead with its plan to host a conference questioning the Holocaust, with the event now scheduled for later in 2006.
The controversial idea emerged after hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the systematic slaughter of an estimated six million Jews during World War II as a "myth", and the event was initially set for early this year.
"It is going to be held in (the month of) Aban," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters, referring to the Iranian month which starts on October 23.
Asefi also said there was nothing wrong with the idea, saying that the delay in the timing of the event was because "in Aban the weather in cooler".
"We do not consider it harsh to host a conference that will historically, scientifically and analytically talk about an event".
Ahmadinejad, an ultra-conservative who came to power in a surprise victory last June, has provoked international condemnation with a number of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish remarks.
They include labelling Israel a "tumour" and calling for the Jewish state to be "wiped off the map" or moved as far away as Alaska. On the Holocaust, he has claimed it is merely a Western invention used to legitimise Israel.
In January, British Prime Minister Tony Blair described plans for the conference as "shocking, ridiculous, stupid", and advised Ahmadinejad to "come and see the evidence of the Holocaust himself in the countries of Europe".
But Iran responded by inviting Blair to take part in the conference and "defend the Holocaust" as an historical fact.