In one of his first acts since leaving his post as US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton will on Thursday call for legal proceedings against Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad for incitement to genocide.

Mr Bolton will join Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian attorney-general, and Nobel peace prize winner Elie Wiesel in claims that a series of public statements against Israel constitute a crime under the Genocide Convention.

The call comes amid growing pressure on the US to start talks with Iran about Iraq, but also amid international criticism of a conference in Tehran questioning the Holocaust. A 68-page study produced by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, argues that Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s declaration that “Israel should be wiped off the map” is part of a hate campaign punishable under international law.

A series of remarks by Mr Ahmadi-Nejad, including one in which he reportedly questioned whether Zionists were human beings, “constitute direct and public incitement to genocide”, the study alleges. While reminiscent of incitement before the Rwanda genocide, “the critical difference is that while the Hutus in Rwanda were equipped with machetes, Iran, should the international community do nothing to prevent it, will soon acquire nuclear weapons,” it says.

Mr Gold told the FT that while “most people think of [legal proceedings against] genocide in terms of setting up tribunals after the crime has been committed”, the challenge was to stop genocide before it begins.

“The question is, what specifically can be done? Let the Security Council meet and discuss the issue,” he said.

The Iranian mission to the UN dismissed the call as “a propaganda move, and an act without any substance. The international court of justice should give every priority to the real genocide of Palestinian people by Israeli leaders”. Earlier this year, visiting the UN, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad said his fight was not with Jews but with Zionists.

Juan Mendez, the UN’s special adviser on the prevention of genocide, said he did not plan to take any official action over the remarks because his job was to help vulnerable populations that could not defend themselves.

“But that doesn’t mean I don’t consider them serious and grave,” he said. “Expressions of hate speech, especially in the context of an ability to act on them, are certainly one of the warning signs we look for.”

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