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Iran: Meseznikov handshake report false

Teheran says its tourism minister did not shake hands with Israeli counterpart at Madrid showcase.

January 22, 2010 05:54
2 minute read.
Tourism Minister Stas Mesezhnikov meets with the I

Meseznikov iran 311. (photo credit: Tourism Ministry)

An Iranian minister did not shake hands with Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov at the International Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid, Reuters said Thursday, citing a report by the ISNA news agency.

According to the report, the Islamic republic's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization denied that the incident had occurred, calling reports of it "baseless rumor."

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Meseznikov was in Spain on Wednesday to formally open the Israeli exhibit at the tourism showcase. Reports surfaced later in the day that while there, he met, talked and shook hands with his Iranian counterpart.

"As opposed to the cold reaction I received from the Syrian representatives when I approached their stall, the Iranians came out to greet me," said Meseznikov in a phone interview from Madrid.

"While the Syrians turned their backs to us and made it clear that we were not welcome, the Iranian exhibit manager shook my hand warmly and gave me a tour of the Iranian booth and told me about the sites they had on display. He then invited me, informally of course, to visit Iran so that I would get a chance to see the archeological sites and ancient cities first-hand. I told him I sincerely hoped I and the rest of the citizens of Israel would have the opportunity to visit Iran, provided the relationship between our countries allows for it."

Meseznikov stressed that the Iranians knew that they were speaking to Israeli officials. "They didn't hide or scurry away, they remained and talked to us pleasantly."

Meseznikov said that he also had the chance to meet and shake hands with the Iranian tourism minister, Hamid Baghaei, when the representatives of all the participating countries took part in a formal ceremony and the two stood next to each other.

"I introduced myself and we shook hands and talked for a while," said the minister. "I've always said that tourism, which tends to stress the positive over the negative and shows the pleasant side of the region, can be a bridge for peace."

During the event, Meseznikov also had a chance to meet with his Palestinian counterpart. He said that they had a very nice conversation and that she had accepted his invitation to visit him in Jerusalem.

"We cooperate with the Palestinians on several joint tourism projects as well as in the bid to have the Dead Sea make it in to the 'New 7 Wonders of Nature' competition," said Meseznikov.

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