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UN Adopts Resolution Condemning Holocaust Denial

The U.N. General Assembly has adopted a resolution condemning any attempt to deny the Holocaust. From U.N. headquarters, VOA's Peter Heinlein reports Iran's delegate was alone in speaking out against the measure.

The U.S.-drafted resolution was adopted without a vote with 103 of the world body's 192 member states signed on as co-sponsors.

The brief text simply "condemns without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust." It names no country specifically, but its intention is clear, after last month's Holocaust denial conference in Tehran. There, many speakers referred to the mass extermination of Jews as a myth.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Alejandro Wolff opened the General Assembly debate, describing Holocaust denial as "ignorant."

"Those who would deny the Holocaust, and sadly there are some who do, reveal not only ignorance, but their moral failure as well," he said.

Iran was the only country indicating opposition to the measure. Low-ranking diplomat Hossein Gharibi represented the Tehran government. He described the intent of the resolution's sponsors as "mischievous."

Gharibi argued that meetings such as last month's Tehran conference serve a scholarly purpose. He accused Israel of manipulating "the immense suffering" associated with the Holocaust for political purposes.

"Regrettably, the Israeli regime has routinely used attempted to exploit the sufferings of the Jewish people in the past as a cover for the crimes it has perpetrated over the past six decades against Palestinians in the occupied territories," he said.

Attendance in the Assembly Hall was light, indicating the mixed feelings in a body that routinely passes anti-Israeli measures by overwhelming margins. But several Arab and Muslim countries rose to speak in favor of the resolution.

Egypt's U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz thanked the measure's sponsors for keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive.

"Egypt joined consensus on this resolution stressing once again our strong belief that the Holocaust deserves to be remembered as one of the dark points in the history of humanity," he said.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, also spoke strongly in favor of the measure. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Adiyatwidi Adiwoso Asmady delivered Jakarta's statement.

"My delegation is of the view that the highest tribute we can pay to the victims of the Holocaust and other horrendous acts, such as ethnic cleansing and other historic mass murder, is to acknowledge the horror, reaffirming our resolve to work collectively to prevent such crimes against humanity from happening in the future," she said.

Coincidentally, the European Union statement was presented by Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency. Berlin's U.N. Ambassador Thomas Matussek acknowledged, and apologized for Germany's role in the Holocaust.

"Let me first emphasize that I am aware that the unprecedented crime of the Holocaust was committed by Germans, and in the name of Germany, and from that stems our special responsibility," he said.

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman aimed his rhetorical barbs directly at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who convened last month's Holocaust denial conference. He described as "pathetic" the attempts to question the historical accuracy of the Nazi campaign to exterminate the Jews.

"The president of Iran is in fact saying, 'there was really no Holocaust, but just in case, we will finish the job.' His pathetic mouthpiece, who has publicly disassociated his country from the international community just now, has amplified this call in the most cynical and hypocritical way," he said.

Adoption of the resolution was timed to coincide with the January 27 observance of Holocaust Memorial Day. That is the date in 1945 when Soviet forces liberated the infamous Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. A memorial ceremony is slated for Monday in the General Assembly Hall.