TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reiterated his doubt about the Holocaust and called on Muslim nations to take a proactive stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, state media reported Tuesday.
The president's comments, published on Iranian state television's Web site, were the second time in a week he has expressed doubt about the Nazi genocide of Jews during World War II. In October, Ahmadinejad also said Israel should be "wiped off the map."
"If the killing of Jews in Europe is true," the Web site quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during a speech at an Islamic conference in Tehran, "and the Zionists are being supported because of this excuse, why should the Palestinian nation pay the price?"
In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev criticized the remarks.
"The real problem with the repeated statements of the Iranian president is that they correctly represent the mind-set of the Iranian leadership, and they accurately articulate the policies of that extremist regime," he said.
Ahmadinejad also called on the Muslim world to "give up its policy of passivity" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying the West could not play a neutral role in the issue.
"The West's policy has always been in favor of the Zionist regime and to the detriment of the Islamic world. It can't be a judge or mediator now," Ahmadinejad said, according to the Web site.
Ahmadinejad provoked an angry reaction from the United States, Europe and even Russia, an ally of Iran, when he told reporters in Saudi Arabia on Thursday that Israel should be moved to Europe if the West wants to make up for the Holocaust.
The comment also infuriated the Saudis as it was made on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference that was dedicated to showing the moderate face of Islam.
Ahmadinejad has been unapologetic about taking Iran on a more openly defiant course, insisting on Iran's right to develop its nuclear program and often using rhetoric reminiscent of the 1980s heyday of the Islamic Revolution.
But he has alienated even some conservative allies in Iran, who fear he is hurting the country's image. Moderate Iranians have called on the ruling Islamic establishment to rein in the president.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate say on all matters, has backed Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel's elimination.
The controversy comes at a sensitive time for Iran, which is under heavy international pressure over its nuclear program. The United States is pressing the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
Washington accuses Tehran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies this, saying its program is strictly for generating electricity.