A prospective Iranian presidential candidate issued strong criticism of his country's foreign policy Wednesday, saying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust has caused the Islamic Republic significant damage.
Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, incumbent mayor of Tehran and a leading candidate to replace Ahmadinejad, was quoted by Al-Monitor as saying "steps were taken and words uttered that not only did nothing to promote our cause, but enabled our enemies to turn others against us."
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"Controversial and tasteless statements, slogans and charades damaged us and weakened our rightful position," said Ghalibaf, referring to Ahmadinejad's litany of controversies that included systematic Holocaust denial and a much-ridiculed statement to the effect that homosexuality doesn't exist in Iran.
While Ghalibaf pledged support for Iran's unsanctioned nuclear program, he had nothing but criticism of Ahmadinejad's conduct: "Our legal position can be realized only through smart, rational diplomacy," he said. "For example, what good did the issue with the Holocaust do for us? We were never against Judaism; it's a religion. What we opposed has always been Zionism."
"We were the greatest supporters of Palestine for 30 years, but thanks to the wisdom of Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, nobody could accuse us of anti-Semitism. Suddenly, without thinking about the consequences and implications, the matter of the Holocaust was raised. Exactly how did it serve the revolution or the Palestinians?"
"It has become an excuse for the biggest enemies, the Zionists and has affected the goals of the Palestinian people. The protection of Palestinian goals is one of the guiding principles of our foreign policy. Holocaust denial is not part of our foreign policy."
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