US condemns Iran's Raisi after 'outrageous' Holocaust comments

Iranian president suggests 'there are some signs that it happened' but it should 'be investigated and researched'

The Iranian president, who took office last year, is an ultraconservative cleric known for his hostility towards the West. AP
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The White House on Monday condemned remarks by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in which he appeared to question the Holocaust.

Mr Raisi's comments came during a CBS 60 Minutes broadcast late on Sunday. When asked if he believed the Holocaust — during which millions of people including six million Jews were killed — had happened, he equivocated in his response.

“Historical events should be investigated by researchers and historians. There are some signs that it happened. If so, they should allow it to be investigated and researched,” Mr Raisi said.

The remarks quickly drew backlash from several US officials.

“This statement from Iran’s president is outrageous and should be universally condemned,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a tweet.

“Iranian President Raisi’s call for 'research' to determine whether the Holocaust happened is ludicrous and dangerous,” US special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism Deborah Lipstadt said in a tweet.

“His statement is a form of Holocaust denial and a form of anti-Semitism.”

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum also issued a condemnation of Mr Raisi's comments.

“The Holocaust is one of the most well-documented crimes in history,” museum chairman Stuart Eizenstat said.

“History teaches us the dangers of ignoring anti-Semitism from any quarter, but coming from a head of state is especially concerning and needs to be universally condemned.”

In his interview with Lesley Stahl, Mr Raisi also addressed US sanctions against Iran as part of wider western economic pressure for the country to meet demands to put curbs on its nuclear programme, calling them “tyrannical”.

He claimed his country's programme would be for “medicine, agriculture, oil, gas”, while western countries say Iran is attempting to build a nuclear bomb.

Mr Raisi's interview was taped before his arrival in New York on Monday for the UN General Assembly, where he ruled out a meeting with US President Joe Biden.

“No, I don't think that such a meeting would happen,” he said. “I don't believe having a meeting or a talk with him will be beneficial.”

The Iranian president, who took office last year, is an ultraconservative cleric known for his hostility towards the West.

Aside from the industrial-scale slaughter of Europe's Jews, the Holocaust also led to other minority groups being sent to Nazi death camps, including gay people and Roma.

Updated: September 19, 2022, 7:34 PM