French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued on Wednesday a strong condemnation of new remarks from Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust.
“The president of the republic condemned the remarks made today by the Iranian president questioning the reality of the Holocaust,” a statement from the Elysee said.
Sarkozy had told Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki during a meeting in Paris that such comments were “unacceptable and profoundly shocking,” the statement said.
The hardline Ahmadinejad, who is seeking a second term in office, reiterated on Wednesday his anti-Israel stance and called the Holocaust a “big deception.”
He also accused the world’s liberal democracies of degrading “human values” with their pro-Israel policies, according to quotes carried by the news website of Iranian state television.
“The identity of the liberal democracy has been exposed to the world by its protection of the most criminal regime in the history of humanity, the Zionist regime, by using the big deception of the Holocaust.
“There is no doubt that the only way to replace the liberal thought is to go back to the teachings of the divine prophets,” Ahmadinejad said.
Sarkozy, in his Paris meeting with Mottaki, also voiced France’s “serious concern regarding Iran’s (nuclear) proliferation programme and reiterated our desire to contribute to a solution,” the presidential statement said.
Paris demanded that Tehran respect UN Security Council resolutions related to its nuclear goals, warning that Iran risks “exposing itself to an ever-greater international isolation, on every level” if it does not open fully its nuclear installations.
In mid-election campaigning, Ahmadinejad last week ruled out talks with the six powers -- UN Security Council veto-wielding permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany -- on its nuclear drive, but said he was open to a debate with US President Barack Obama.
The president’s image overseas was thrown at Ahmadinejad during a televised debate earlier on Wednesday with rival candidate and former premier Mir Hussein Moussavi, who says he entered the race after two decades out of politics because he “senses danger threatening Iran.”
Moussavi said Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy, which he said was characterised by “adventure, instability, extremism, exhibitionism, superstition,” had “undermined the dignity of our nation.”
Israel, widely considered to be the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear power, accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear programme is purely to produce energy for a rapidly growing population once fossil fuels run out.
Ahmadinejad, who has previously said that the Jewish state should be “wiped off the map,” caused a stir in April at a UN conference against racism, when he criticised the creation of a “totally racist government in occupied Palestine” in 1948, calling it “the most cruel and racist regime.”