Germany lambastes Iran for dragging Israel into cartoon fray
By News Agencies
An Iranian newspaper's call for Holocaust cartoons is an attempt to drag Israel into a conflict between Europe and the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, a German government minister said.
"After denying the right of Israel to exist and denying the Holocaust, the people around President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad are trying to escalate the situation," Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler was quoted as saying in Wednesday's edition of the Berliner Zeitung daily newspaper.
"This fills us with deep concern, that a state is using this clash of cultures as a tool to further its own dominance."
Iran's best-selling newspaper launched a competition on Tuesday to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust, in retaliation for the publication in Denmark and other European countries of caricatures of Islam's most revered prophet.
Last year Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and said he doubted six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War Two.
Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany, punishable with up to five years in prison. Printing cartoons that make light of the Holocaust but do not question it would not be a crime but would invite private lawsuits and other legal difficulties for a newspaper in Germany.
Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) in parliament, said Iran was trying to widen a conflict between Denmark and the Muslim world to include Israel.
"Once again Iran is trying to drag Israel into the conflict with the motto -- Israel is responsible for everything," von Klaeden said in a statement. "We should not let Israel be dragged into this."
Iranian newspaper announces cartoons contest on Holocaust
One of Iran's biggest newspapers on Tuesday called for artists to submit caricatures on the Holocaust, saying it wants to target a subject as taboo in the West as the Prophet Muhammad is for Muslims.
The daily Hamshahri, one of Iran's five biggest newspapers, said its contest for Holocaust cartoons was meant as a test of the West's principle of freedom of expression.
The newspaper invited foreign and Iranian artists to send in cartoons about the Nazi genocide against the Jews, saying it would publish more details on the rules on Monday. The contest is being organized in cooperation with the House of Caricatures, a Tehran exhibition center for cartoons.
Does the West extend freedom of expression to the crimes committed by the United States and Israel, or an event such as the Holocaust? Or is its freedom only for insulting religious sanctities?" a short article on the back page of Hamshahri said.
Both the paper and the center are owned by the Tehran Municipality, which is dominated by allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is well known for his opposition to Israel.
EU warns Iran
The call for Holocaust cartoons was announced as the EU's executive office warned Iran Tuesday that attempts to boycott Danish goods or cancel trade contracts with European countries would lead to a further rupture in already cool relations.
The EU was trying to confirm comments made by Iran's president that the country should boycott Danish products in protest of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, EU spokesman Johannes Laitenberger told reporters.
"A boycott of Danish goods is by definition a boycott of European goods," Laitenberger said. "A boycott hurts the economic interests of all parties, also those who are boycotting and can damage the growing trade links between the EU and the countries concerned."