UNITED NATIONS — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhyahu waved designs of the most infamous Nazi death camp from a U.N. podium on Thursday, exhorting the world to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Just days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again denied the Holocaust, Netanhyahu used his speech before the U.N. General Assembly to warn of another catastrophe.
He held up a copy of minutes from a notorious meeting at Wannsee Lake where top Nazis formalized plans for the systematic extermination of Europe's Jewish population.
"Is this protocol a lie?" he asked.
Then he brandished original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp — a representation in chilling detail of gas chambers, crematoria and other facilities where 3 million Jews perished.
"The most urgent challenge facing this body today is to prevent the tyrant of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons," he declared.
Israel's greatest threat
Iran denies that it is producing nuclear arms, but Israel, the U.S. and other world powers do not believe that and are hoping to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions through a series of sanctions. The threat of additional sanctions looms, but Iran so far has refused to stop enriching uranium, a process that could be used to make bombs.
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat because of its nuclear program, its possession of missiles that could be equipped with nuclear warheads and its repeated talk of the Jewish state's demise.
There has been much speculation Israel might launch a military strike against Iran's nuclear sites as it did against an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. This week, Netanyahu said again that "all options are on the table" and Israel "reserves the right of self-defense."
Video: Scenes for the U.N. yearbook Drawing a parallel between the Nazis and Iran has become a favored theme among some Israeli officials. At the U.N. on Thursday, he warned that Tehran's nuclear program threatens not only Israel, but the entire world.
"Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime, perhaps they threaten only the Jews. Well, if you think that, you're wrong. You're dead wrong," he said.
He also castigated U.N. delegates who stayed for Ahmadinejad's speech before the General Assembly.
"Have you no shame? Have you no decency?" he asked.
Reasserted desire for peace
He questioned whether the U.N. was up to the task of standing up to Tehran — and roundly denounced a recent U.N. report accusing Israel of war crimes in its winter war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
The report, overseen by veterans war crimes investigator Richard Goldstone, a respected international jurist with close ties to Israel, accused the Israeli military of using disproportionate firepower against militants who bombarded southern Israel with thousands of rockets and mortars over eight years.
Netanyahu moved up his trip to New York this week after President Barack Obama summoned him to a three-way meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
In his speech, Netanyahu reasserted his desire for peace with the Palestinians. But in effect, the meeting failed to bridge the divides over Israeli settlement construction and an agenda for renewed negotiations.
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