updated 12/5/2006 6:26:22 PM ET 2006-12-05T23:26:22

Iran, whose president has described the Holocaust as a “myth,” said Tuesday it will hold a conference to discuss the evidence of the World War II genocide.

The two-day conference scheduled for next week was initiated by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi said.

“The president simply asked whether an event called the Holocaust has actually taken place ... No rational response was ever given to Ahmadinejad’s questions,” Mohammadi said, explaining the reason for the conference.

The conference is yet another step in Ahmadinejad’s public campaign against Israel. He has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

Mohammadi rejected any suggestion the conference would support anti-Semitism, saying that was a “Western phenomenon.” The proof, he said, was Iran’s community of 25,000 Jews.

Mohammadi said the conference seeks to “provide an opportunity for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom.”

Iran has repeatedly announced plans for the gathering, including during United Nations chief Kofi Annan’s visit in September to Iran when he said that an exhibition of cartoons denying the Holocaust, which was on display at the time, promotes hatred.

The two-day conference, sponsored by the Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies, is scheduled for Dec. 10-11 and will be attended by 67 foreign researchers from 30 countries, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The deputy minister also said a conference about Holocaust deniers would be held simultaneously in Germany, but that could not be immediately confirmed.

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