Austrian FM faces criticism for visit of Iran minister

US, EU reportedly agreed to allow Salehi to travel to Vienna despite uranium enrichment sanctions; Austrian Green Party slams meeting.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
July 14, 2011 11:04
2 minute read.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Jan.

Ali Akbar Salehi_311 reuters. (photo credit: Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters)

BERLIN - ­ Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger's decision to meet with sanctioned Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Tuesday triggered criticism from the Austrian Green Party.

While the EU lifted its prohibition against Salehi to allow him to travel, he has been placed on the EU sanction list because of his work on Iran's illicit uranium enrichment program. According to Austrian media reports, the US and the EU agreed to allow Salehi to travel to Vienna.

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Spindelegger said he wants to maintain "open channels of communication" with Iran, saying human rights in Iran and the country's nuclear program are topics of discussion. After the meeting, the Austrian Foreign Ministry expressed disappointment with the talks with Iran.

Marco Schreuder, a Green Party representative, slammed the meeting between Salehi and Spindelegger. His party has distanced itself from the decision to give Salehi a diplomatic platform.

Schreuder said in a statement that "the representative of a regime [Iran] that persecutes and murders homosexuals and brutally represses women... and denies the Holocaust and threatens Israel with destruction must face clear opposition when the representative appears in Vienna." Karl Pfeifer, a Vienna-based expert in Austrian-Israeli relations, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that it was "a meeting without results. Austria gave the bloody dictatorship the possibility to present itself as a reasonable peace-loving country." "However," he continued, "the press conference reminded me rather of a Syrian press conference. Most journalists had to stand up and only four Austrian journalists were allowed to ask a question ­ one was representing APA, the official press agency, one ORF TV and one ORF Radio. Christian Ultsch from Die Presse was the fourth one to ask a question about repression in Syria. Salehi said some strange elements were present in Syria and of course Assad started some reforms and spoke seriously about the principle of non-intervention.The whole press conference was a typical exercise in futility."

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