BERLIN – Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki dropped his planned visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday because US sanctions meant his Iran Air plane might be refused fuel.

“Mr. Mottaki canceled his visit because the government of the Netherlands could not guarantee that his plane would be refueled by private fuel firms at Schiphol airport, which follow US sanctions,” Ward Bezemer, a spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry, wrote The Jerusalem Post.

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“The Dutch government has nothing to do with this, since this concerns US sanctions, not EU or UN sanctions.”

Mottaki was slated to attend a conference organized by the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies that involves an “understanding of the regional developments and Iran’s role towards achieving regional stability.”

Mottaki also planned to attend the annual session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Bezemer wrote by e-mail that “The Dutch Foreign Minister did not oppose Mr. Mottaki’s trip to the Netherlands. He was welcome to attend the OPCW meeting; visas were arranged. Also, a meeting between Mr. Mottaki and Foreign Minister [Uri] Rosenthal was organized.”

According to Bezemer, “Mr. Mottaki apparently chose not to use alternative travel options (e.g. flying by Iran Air, which refuels elsewhere in Europe, KLM or others). This is his own choice. By the way, his deputy minister did travel to the Netherlands to attend the OPCW meeting by using these alternative options.”

Klaus Winters, general manager of the refueling section at Schiphol airport, told the Post there are eight fuel companies there.

“We do not have contracts with airlines... only fuel companies,” he said.

He could not say which fuel companies refused to serve Iran Air. The eight fuel operators are Royal Shell Dutch, ExxonMobil, State Oil Hydro, Chevron- Texaco, Total, BP KLM and Q8 – the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation.

Dutch NGOs sharply criticized Mottaki’s planned appearance in Holland. Speaking from The Hague on Tuesday, Ronny Naftaniel, head of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, told the Post that last Friday the center sent out a letter drawing attention to Mottaki’s visit.

“The most important thing is that the minister did not come,” Naftaniel said. He added that Mottaki’s planned visit was “one of the best kept secrets in this country.”

Naftaniel said, “We commend the Dutch government and authorities for strict application of rules and are happy that Mottaki is not here. He is responsible for building up the nuclear arsenal in Iran and for human rights violations in Iran. He makes a mockery of the [OPCW] conference, since we know that Iran has chemical weapons.”

Yanaï Bar, coordinator of the Iran Committee, which seeks to stop Teheran’s nuclear program and promote human rights in Iran, told the Post, “The Iranian regime is trying to use its attendance at international forums as a tool to bolster its legitimacy, both abroad and at home.

“The international community must not allow Teheran to distract attention from its violations of international treaties and suppression of the legitimate protests of its citizens. Foreign Minister Mottaki visiting The Hague as a representative of the Iranian people would be an affront to the city as an international center of peace and justice.”

When asked about the Hague Centre invitation to Mottaki and human rights criticisms, Christa Meindersma, the Hague Centre’s deputy director for external relations and director of conflict management, told the Post by telephone on Tuesday that her organization’s Iran session is “closed to press.”

When asked about Mottaki’s human rights record, she hung up.

In a follow-up telephone query, Dr. Rob de Wijk, director of the Hague Centre, told the Post it was an “Iranian initiative” that Mottaki meet with people from the Hague Centre forum.

“We do not do politics here. We talk to everybody who wants to talk,” de Wijk repeatedly said.

Asked about Mottaki’s keynote speech at the 2006 Holocaust denial conference in Teheran with German neo- Nazis and a former head of the Ku Klux Klan, de Wijk said, “Of course, I have a problem with Holocaust denial. Outrageous to deny the Holocaust. We are completely neutral. Next week we have a conference with Israel. We are not interested in doing politics. If we do that we close the doors of the institute.”

He said he does “not approve of policies of Iran and certain policies of Israel.”

When asked which policies of Israel he objected to, he said the “fence.” He declined to comment when asked if the West Bank security barrier has reduced terrorism.

The Hague Centre event could not take place because not enough people registered and the invitations were distributed in an untimely manner, the Post learned.

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