Annan must protest Iran's Holocaust cartoons
United Nations, Sep 2: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been asked by a leading American Jewish group to speak out against Iran's Holocaust cartoon exhibition when he travels to Tehran next week.
In a letter circulated yesterday, the American Jewish Committee said Annan should use the opportunity to speak out ''publicly and privately'' about the exhibit. The AJC lobbies against anti-Semitism and for pluralism.
The exhibit's organisers say that the more than 200 entries from Iran's International Holocaust Cartoons Contest are aimed at challenging Western taboos about discussing the catastrophe, in which six million Jews died but which Iran's president has called a ''myth'' open to debate.
''While we understand there are many vital issues on your agenda during your meetings in Iran, failure to address this government-endorsed and encouraged anti-Semitism would be seen, both inside and outside of Iran, as either acquiescence or worse, endorsement,'' the AJC letter said.'' ''Such an interpretation would be especially dangerous given the context of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments calling for Israel's destruction,'' wrote AJC's executive director, David Harris, and its president, Robert Goodkind.
Annan plans to visit Iran as part of a diplomatic swing through the West Asia to pin down a peace deal on Lebanon.
At a July conference in Rome on the fighting between Israel and Hizbollah militia, the secretary-general suggested that Iran and Syria, Hizbollah's chief benefactors, be engaged.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was ''very pleased'' about Annan's efforts but expressed doubt he would succeed.
Annan was forced to cancel a scheduled trip to Iran last November after Ahmadinejad told students that that ''Israel must be wiped off the map.'' The AJC letter said that Annan's visit would probably coincide with an announcement today of winners in the cartoon contest.
It also expressed appreciation for Annan's ''prior statements about the bigotry of Holocaust denial and the importance of not using free speech as a pretext for hateful incitement.'' Iran's best-selling newspaper Hamshahri in February launched a competition to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust in retaliation for last September's publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Danish and other European newspapers.
Those images of the prophet sparked attacks on European embassies in Muslim nations, including missions in Iran.