VIENNA -- A gathering of Holocaust deniers in Iran touched off a firestorm of indignation across Europe, where many countries have made it a crime to publicly disavow the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews by the Nazis.
The European Union's top justice official condemned the conference as "an unacceptable affront" to victims of the World War II genocide. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain denounced it as "shocking beyond belief" and proof of the extremism of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"I think it is such a symbol of sectarianism and hatred toward people of another religion. I find it just unbelievable, really," Blair said in London.
In Iran, Ahmadinejad said yesterday that Israel will one day be "wiped out" as the Soviet Union was, drawing applause from participants. Ahmadinejad's comments were likely to further fuel the outcry prompted by the gathering, attended by some of Europe's and the United States' best-known Holocaust deniers.
Anger over the conference could further isolate Iran as the West considers sanctions in the standoff over Tehran's nuclear program.
David Duke, a former Klan leader and former Louisiana state representative, was among those at the two-day conference.
The White House condemned Iran for convening a conference it called "an affront to the entire civilized world."
The conference drew especially sharp condemnation in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country repudiated it "with all our strength."