Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the first government official to take the floor at yesterday's Review Conference of the Durban Declaration of 2001 against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
In his remarks, Ahmadinejad called Israel the "most cruel and repressive racist regime" and that the U.S. and Europe helped establish Israel at the expense of Palestinians after World War II.
"They resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering," he said at the Geneva conference, according to the Associated Press. He also appealed for unity in the fight against racism.
The Iranian president's comments caused numerous Western diplomats to leave the conference room.
Fr. Lombardi recalled Pope Benedict XVI's words from last Sunday, when he said, “I express heartfelt prayers that the delegates present at the Geneva Conference will work together, in a spirit of dialogue and mutual acceptance, so as to put an end to every form of racism, discrimination and intolerance, thereby marking a fundamental step towards the affirmation of the universal value of human dignity and human rights, within a framework of respect and justice for every person and every people.”
The Vatican spokesman added that the “Holy See deplores the use of this United Nations forum for the adoption of political positions, of an extremist and offensive nature, against any State. This does not contribute to dialogue and it provokes an unacceptable atmosphere of conflict.”
“What is needed,” Lombardi said, “is to make good use of this important opportunity to engage in dialogue together, according to the line of action that the Holy See has always adopted, with a view to effectively combating the racism and intolerance that still today affect children, women, those of African descent, migrants, indigenous peoples, etc., in every part of the world.”