EU delegates postpone visit to Tehran

2010/01/04

Published in German weekly newspaper “Die ZEIT” on January 4 2010
Source (German): http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2010-01/iran-eu-abgeordnete

The disputed trip of a group of EU delegates to Iran has been canceled. So far it is unclear whether the delegation was disinvited, or if they canceled the visit themselves.

The Iranian parliament. Photo © Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

A visit of a European Parliament delegation to Tehran, that was scheduled for this week, was canceled for the time being. This was announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran. The trip had been harshly criticized by the American Congress for potentially mitigating Iran’s political isolation.

About a dozen US delegates in a letter had called on the European Parliament to cancel the trip, since the timing seemed inappropriate in the light of the violent crackdown of anti-government protest in Iran one week ago. According to official information, eight people were killed during the protests of 27. December. Numerous opposition supporters were arrested after the protests.

Head of the EU-Iran delegation Barbara Lochbihler (Green Party) said on Monday in Brussels, she regarded the cancellation of the visit by the Iranian government as strange and deplorable. Tehran had been given one reason by the pressure imposed by “some US American congresspersons and individual members of the European Parliament”. American representatives had called on the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, to cancel the visit, since this would send a wrong signal to the Iranian government, undermining the efforts to argue Iran out of its nuclear program.

The Iranian side claimed that the delegation itself canceled the trip, allegedly because of harsh American protests. A spokesman of the Foreign Office said that they are currently attempting to set a new date for the visit. According to Tehran, the goals of the visit of the delegation were to search for possibilities of a better co-operation with the Iranian parliament, and to discuss the nuclear conflict with the West.

According to Lochbihler, the Iranian ambassador to Brussels, Ali Asghar Khadchi, “unexpectedly” canceled the visit on Sunday night. Lochbihler said: “I regret that the visit was canceled last-minute. This provides another sad proof for how hard the Iranian leadership is trying to cut off any discussion about the severe unresolved problems in their own country. The repressions of the regime are increasing with every day, she added.

Eleven delegates from seven factions together with deputies of the EU Council and the European Commission had planned to visit the Iranian capital during 7.-11. January and meet with representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the society, among others.

ZEIT ONLINE, Reuters, dpa

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