Iran dismissed international criticism of anti-Israeli remarks by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, urging the West on Sunday to show greater tolerance for differing points of view.
Last week, Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a “myth” and said if Europeans insist it did occur, then they should give some of their own land for a Jewish state, rather than the one in the Middle East. The comments came just two months after the hard-line president called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”
The remarks sparked outrage in Israel and the United States, and European leaders warned Saturday they would consider sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Sunday the international reaction was overblown.
“The West had a very emotional attitude about Ahmadinejad’s comments. Westerners have to learn to tolerate other’s opinion,” Asefi said at a news conference.
He dismissed the European sanctions threat as “baseless and illogical” and said Ahmadinejad was simply articulating Iran’s position toward Israel.
Ahmadinejad’s remarks came as Iran and the Europeans prepare for a new round of negotiations Wednesday over Iran’s nuclear program. The United States accuses Iran of aiming to produce nuclear weapons; Iran says its program is intended only to generate electricity.
In the U.S.-backed talks, the Europeans are trying to rein in the program to ensure it cannot produce weapons. Iran, however, has rejected a proposal under which uranium enrichment for its program would be carried out in Russia rather than in Iran.
Asefi said Iran has some propositions for the EU envoys but would not give further details.
“We have not demanded anything excessive. The European side should not make an excessive demand either,” Asefi said.
Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, told the state news agency IRNA that the new round of talks will be “unconditional.”
“Their problem is not with the atomic bomb, they want to thwart Iran’s scientific advancements,” he said.
Uranium enrichment is a key step in the nuclear process and can produce either the material necessary for a bomb or fuel for a reactor. Under the European proposal, Iran would get fuel from abroad for its reactors, but Tehran has insisted it has the right to carry out uranium enrichment on its soil.