TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's conference questioning the Holocaust came to an end Tuesday, but not before hearing former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke say that gas chambers were not used to kill Jews.
"The Zionists have used the Holocaust as a weapon to deny the rights of the Palestinians and cover up the crimes of Israel," Duke told a gathering of nearly 70 "researchers" in Tehran at Ahmadinejad's invitation.
"This conference has an incredible impact on Holocaust studies all over the world," said Duke, a former state representative in Louisiana who twice ran for president.
"The Holocaust is the device used as the pillar of Zionist imperialism, Zionist aggression, Zionist terror and Zionist murder," Duke told The Associated Press.
Also at the end of the conference, Mohammad Ali Ramini, an Ahmadinejad adviser who has called the Holocaust a "myth," announced that he will chair a committee to find "the truth on the genocide of Jews."
Other members of the committee will be Robert Fuerisson, a French professor who denies the existence of gas chambers, along with Holocaust deniers from Syria, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, the United States and Bahrain.
Tuesday's speeches included Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, a former interior minister and one of the founders of Lebanese militia Hezbollah, who labeled the Holocaust as a "tale."
"All the studies and research carried out so far have proven that there is no reason to believe that the Holocaust ever occurred and that it is only a tale," he stated.
Austrian historian Wolfgang Froehlich, who served a two-year jail sentence in his home country for denying the Holocaust, did not read out his speech — which was handed out to participants — for fear of being jailed again. Denying the Holocaust is a crime in a dozen European countries, including Austria, where British historian David Irving was jailed in February for three years for denying the Holocaust.
Nabil Soleiman, an adviser to the ministry of religious affairs in Syria, said, "If the Holocaust ever occurred, it was a conspiracy against the Arab-Islamic world as today the Middle East is still paying the consequences."
Ahmadinejad opened Tuesday's session by thanking God that the Zionist regime was declining, telling conference participants, “its lifetime will be over and their interests as well as reputation will be endangered,” the Islamic Republican News Agency reported.
International condemnation continued to pour in against the government-sponsored conference in Tehran, which has drawn Holocaust deniers from around the world.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was "shocking beyond belief" and called the conference "a symbol of sectarianism and hatred."
He said he saw little hope of engaging Iran in constructive action in the Middle East, saying, "I look around the region at the moment, and everything Iran is doing is negative."
The United States, which also condemned the gathering, has been considering whether to open a dialogue with Iran to get its help in calming neighboring Iraq. President George W. Bush has so far refused to approach Iran, accusing it of backing terrorism.
The White House condemned the gathering of Holocaust deniers in Tehran as "an affront to the entire civilized world as well as to the traditional Iranian values of tolerance and respect."
A statement from press secretary Tony Snow noted the meeting coincided with International Human Rights Week, which renews the pledges of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafted in the wake of World War II atrocities.
"The Iranian regime perversely seeks to call the historical fact of those atrocities into question and provide a platform for hatred," Snow said.
Earlier this year, Ahmadinejad described the Holocaust as a "myth" that has been used to impose the state of Israel on the Arab world and called for Israel to be wiped off the map.
"Ahmadinejad's Holocaust comment opened a new window in international relations on this issue. Twenty years ago, it was not possible to talk about [the] Holocaust and any scientific study was subject to punishment. This taboo has been broken, thanks to Mr. Ahmadinejad's initiative," Georges Theil of France told conference delegates on Tuesday.
Theil was convicted earlier this year in France for "contesting the truth of crimes against humanity" after he said the Nazis never used poison gas against Jews.
Michele Renouf, an Australian socialite supporter of "Holocaust skeptics," called Ahmadinejad "a hero" for opening a debate about the Holocaust. Renouf, a blonde former beauty queen, addressed the audience wearing a green robe and Islamic headscarf, abiding by Iranian law requiring women to cover their hair.
Frederick Toben, an Australian who in 1999 served jail time in Germany for his Holocaust views, told the conference in no uncertain terms that the number of Jews killed in Nazi death camps — an estimated 6 million — is a myth.
''The number of victims at the Auschwitz concentration camp could be about 2,007,'' Toben said. ''The railroad to the camp did not have enough capacity to transfer large numbers of Jews."
Among the 67 participants from 30 countries, who included some of Europe's most prominent Holocaust deniers, were two rabbis and four other members of the fringe group Jews United Against Zionism.
They were dressed in the traditional long black coats and black hats of ultra-Orthodox Jews. The group says the creation of the state of Israel violates Jewish law and argues that the Holocaust should not be used to justify its founding.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.