Jerusalem mufti claims Israel exaggerates Holocaust

He repeated his accusations to other media outlets.

"Six million? It was a lot less," Sabri told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. "It's not my fault if Hitler hated the Jews. Anyway, they hate them just about everywhere. The Jewish people has found a formidable means of winning solidarity from the world."

He told Reuters that he does not deny the Holocaust, but "I think the figures have been exaggerated. We denounce all massacres, but I don't see why a certain massacre should be used for political gain and blackmail."

Pope John Paul II went ahead with a planned meeting with the mufti on Sunday in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said he wasn't surprised by the mufti's remarks.

"I think that some of the extreme hateful expressions of religious leaders were not new to the ears of the Israelis…I think that the attempt to utilize this event in the presence of the pope did not do any good to those who made them," he said.

Although the mufti succeeded in catching the world's attention by taking advantage of the media coverage of the event, Olmert added, that "it's doubtful" that the mufti's comments were helpful to the Palestinian public.

The mufti boycotted an inter-religious meeting last week with the pope that was attended by Israel's chief rabbis. A lower-ranking Moslem leader attended in the mufti's place.

Sabri, an appointee of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said the Supreme Islamic Council, which handles Moslem religious affairs in the region, has barred contacts with Israel's Jewish religious leaders because of Israel's occupation of east Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War.