PARIS-ROME (EJP) -The Paris-based European Jewish Congress commended Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for his refusal to meet with President Ahmadinejad during his controversial stay in Rome. Ahmadinejad arrived in the Italian capital on Tuesday to attend the UN food agency summit on world food security amid protests from Jewish groups and Italian activists.
The Iranian leader said he would be holding talks with “world leaders” on the sidelines of the FAO summit but did not specify which ones. There has been speculation Ahmadinejad wanted meetings with Pope Benedict XVI and with the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi but these plans have been shelved because of the controversy around his visit.
“The European Jewish Congress applauds Pope Benedict XVI for his attitude towards the anti-Israeli, anti- Semitic Iranian leader,” a statement said.
“Ever since his election, President Ahmadinejad has distinguished himself to be an anti-Semitic leader who has denied the Holocaust and the mass killing of the 6 million Jews of Europe. Moreover, Ahmadinejad has threatened on several occasions to erase Israel, a UN Member State, “off the world map” and declared that the State of Israel should not exist;” the EJC recalled.
“Such an ill-advised decision by the United Nations Organization would be a complete dismissal of the historical realties wherein the very State of Israel was established on the ashes of the Second World War and following the mass murder of the Jews of Europe,” Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said.
He added: “To allow a national leader who so blatantly ignores that history to be given a public voice such as this is an affront to the memory of those millions of victims and the sensitivities of the survivors.”
The European Jewish Congress fears that this major international conference “will be used by the Iranian President as a platform for his anti-Semitic, Israel-bashing discourse.”
“Furthermore, allowing President Ahmadinejad to attend this conference is a damaging insult to the 90% of his people who live in poverty. The Iranian government spends billions of dollars on developing nuclear weapons, in defiance of the sanctions of the international community, while millions of Iranians are unable to receive proper nutrition and healthcare,” the EJC stressed.
Ahead of the Rome conference, World Jewish Congress Chairman Ronald Lauder had sent letters to the FAO director general, Jacques Diouf, to the Italian Prime Minister and to the Pope in which he criticized the presence of the Iranian president.
Lauder welcomed the Pope’s decision not to grant Ahmadinejad a private audience. “I do not believe that Ahmadinejad is a suitable partner for a any kind od inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation. He encourages and supports Islamist fanatics wherever he can and shows neither respect nor tolerance for members of other faiths.”