BERLIN – The newly elected leader of Germany's main Jewish organization called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a "second Hitler" who should be barred from attending the World Cup in Germany, according to comments published Thursday.
Ahmadinejad should not be allowed to set foot on German soil, Charlotte Knobloch said in remarks published in Bild newspaper. The Holocaust survivor was elected the first woman president of Germany's Central Council of Jews on Wednesday.
"For me, this man is a second Hitler," Knobloch said. "He denies the Holocaust — that is illegal in Germany. The German government should therefore not protect him with diplomatic immunity. The authorities should rather investigate him and charge him."
Ahmadinejad has indicated more than once that he might visit the Iranian national team during the World Cup soccer tournament, though no specific plans have been announced.
The Iranian president has sparked outrage for repeatedly questioning Israel's right to exist, saying the country should be wiped off the map and dismissing the Holocaust as a myth.
In Israel, meanwhile, Nobel peace laureate Eli Wiesel suggested in an interview published Thursday that military action might be necessary to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.
"I am against war, I cannot bear to hear myself say that I am in favor of war. I am not a general, but maybe it is necessary to send in a commando team to destroy the (Iranian nuclear) facilities," Wiesel told Israel's Haaretz newspaper.
Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who speaks out frequently on human rights, said Iran's nuclear program must be stopped "at any price." He also said Ahmadinejad has become "the world's number one Holocaust denier."
Iran announced April 11 that it had enriched a small quantity of uranium, fueling international concerns that it was well on the way to developing an atomic bomb. The country insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Uranium enrichment can produce both fuel for nuclear reactor and fissile material for atomic warheads.
Iranian Vice President Mohammed Aliabadi was expected to arrive in Munich on Thursday to attend opening ceremonies of the World Cup the following day. He was then to head to nearby Nuremberg on Sunday to watch his country's team play Mexico.
Aliabadi, 50, is one of seven vice presidents and is the head of the state's physical education organization, which said he is attending the tournament independently to watch Iran play and is not representing Ahmadinejad.
Still, his presence has raised concerns of protests and possible violence. His delegation was to be met at the airport by a Munich police escort, said spokesman Damian Kania.
"He is a state guest, and as such is accorded such honors," Kania said.
Several demonstrations are already planned in Nuremberg, including one by Amnesty International, the Israeli Cultural organization and the exiled Iranian dissident groups.
Germany's far-right activists have also threatened to hold demonstrations in support of Ahmadinejad.