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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
BERLIN - The former Canadian justice minister and Liberal Party MP Irwin Cotler has urged the German government to take a leadership role within the EU and impose tough multipronged sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran.
"Germany is uniquely placed to take leadership... Germany can speak with moral authority born out of its understanding of state-sanctioned incitement to genocide," he said, speaking Thursday at a forum at the Berlin Jewish Community Center entitled "Western Democracies, Iran and the prevention of Genocide."
The forum was sponsored by the Coordinating Council of German Nongovernmental Organizations Against Anti-Semitism.
Cotler, who had represented Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky while the latter was imprisoned in the former Soviet Union, is the Liberal Party's special counsel on human rights and international justice.
"Here is an opportunity for leverage," said Cotler about Germany's $5.7 billion-dollar trade relationship with Iran.
Cotler slammed Daniel Bernbeck, the head of the German-Iranian Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Teheran, who told the AP that he saw "no moral question here at all" about commencing business deals with Iran during its suppression of the popular opposition against the ostensibly rigged Iranian election results.
Bernbeck issued his statements as the media reported on Siemens and Nokia having supplied the Iranian regime with surveillance technology last year that was used to block and monitor Internet, Twitter and mobile telephone communications of the election protesters.
An "important role for civil society is to hold the Daniel Bernbecks to account," said Cotler.
In early June, Cotler introduced the Iran Accountability Act (IAA) in the Canadian Parliament,which seeks to pressure Teheran to modify its behavior in three areas: human rights, adherence to the Genocide Convention, and its nuclear weapons program.
The IAA sanctions companies refining petroleum for Iran's gas-starved economy, and allows the Canadian government to disrupt the operation of businesses supporting Iran's military and nuclear sectors.
In contrast to US legislation, which focuses exclusively on turning the economic screws on Iran's energy infrastructure, the IAA also aims to force Iran to comply with the Genocide Convention and international law. Cotler said the IAA is not limited to Canada but can be a "model or template that other parliaments can adopt."
When asked whether Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier - the Social Democratic Party candidate for chancellor - would seek comparable legislation sanctioning Iran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Dr. Niklas Wagner did not offer a specific answer. Wagner wrote that Steinmeier would "continue to push hard within the Federal government and within the European Union" for sanctions if Teheran did not compromise on its nuclear program.
Critics argue that Germany's "discouragement strategy," which urges German companies to voluntarily restrict trade with Iran, has failed; in 2008, commerce mushroomed by 10.5% compared with 2007.
Meanwhile, Social Democratic Party foreign policy spokesman Gert Weisskirchen said at a Thursday afternoon joint press conference with Cotler that he supports the Cotler-initiated "The Responsibility to Prevent Petition, The Danger of a Genocidal, Rights-Violating and Nuclear Iran," which seeks to apply international law to Iran for inciting genocide against Israel.
The petition's platform calls "for international actors to pursue the recourses available to them under international law. The secretary-general of the United Nations, the Security Council, the International Court of Justice, State Parties to the Genocide Convention - and others - are all provided with tangible and practical steps that can be taken, to prevent genocide before it is too late."
While Iran is subject to EU and UN economic sanctions because of its illegal atomic weapons program, Cotler said that neither UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nor any UN member nation was willing to jump-start a criminal legal proceeding against Iran for its ongoing violation of the Genocide Convention.