(photo credit: Associated Press)
BERLIN – Iran’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who is barred from visiting the European Union because of his activities in advancing his country’s sanctioned nuclear proliferation program, did not attend this year’s annual Conference on Security Policy in Munich held on February 4-6.
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While media reports said that EU countries refused to grant a waiver to Salehi because of his sanctionable activity, Salehi, a close ally of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told the state-controlled Iran news agency ISNA on Saturday that he could not attend because of a “busy schedule.”
According to news reports, there are internal divisions among EU members.
Some EU countries advocate unfettered travel movement for Salehi.
The Dutch government appears to have blocked the travel waiver.
Reuters news service reported that an unnamed EU official said on Friday that “Munich wanted to invite him and there was a general agreement among [EU] member states to take him off the list, but that didn’t happen.
The plan is for EU ambassadors next week to discuss taking him off the list, because we need to be able to engage with him but it’s unclear if the Dutch will agree to that.”
In late January, the Iranian government executed the Dutch-Iranian woman Zahra Bahrami for alleged drug smuggling. Critics say she was hanged to death on trumped-up charges and the real reason was her participation in anti-government protests. The Dutch government termed Iran’s government a “barbarous regime” and froze diplomatic relations. The Dutch Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond on Sunday to questions posed via email.
Asked about the reasons for Salehi not taking part in this year’s conference, Oliver Rolofs, a spokesman for the Munich security conference, wrote the The Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Sunday that “there was no participation this year from an Iranian representative at the Munich security conference.
Generally, the Munich security conference does not give any statements beyond that to such topics.”
Salehi has a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and directed Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization in 2009. The Iranian Parliament approved Ahmadinejad’s handpicked appointee Salehi at the end of January.
Iran has sent top diplomats over the years to attend the security conference based in the Bavarian capital.
Iran’s parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, issued statements containing elements of Holocaust denial at the 2009 Munich security conference.
While denial of the Holocaust is unlawful in Germany, the authorities chose not to pursue legal action against Larijani. He said at the time that his country has “different perspectives on the Holocaust.”
Former Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki ,who delivered a keynote speech at the 2006 Holocaust denial conference in Teheran, was welcomed at last year’s Munich security conference.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron told the conference on Saturday that Europe must stamp out intolerance of Western values within its own Muslim communities and far-right groups if it is to defeat the roots of terrorism.
The prime minister said Britain had found that many convicted terrorists had initially been influenced by socalled “nonviolent extremists” – people who aren’t involved in encouraging plots, but denounce Western politics and culture – before going on to carry out violence.
“We won’t defeat terrorism simply by the actions we take outside our borders. Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries,” Cameron told the conference.
Both Britain and Germany have had noisy domestic debates about the impact of immigration and the difficulties of integrating some religious communities or those who struggle with the language of their new home.
In an attack on Britain's previous government, Cameron said authorities there had been too hesitant to intervene when some sectors of society espoused abhorrent views.
“We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values,” Cameron said. “We have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.”
Cameron said a culture of tolerance had allowed both Islamic extremists
and far-right radicals to build support for their causes.
“We’ve been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them,” he said.
Some European allies have criticized Britain for harboring hard-line
Islamic clerics and failing to clamp down on mosques that promote a
perverted view of Islam.
Several terrorists involved in attacks or attempted plots in the US,
Sweden, Denmark and Norway over the last two years have had links to
Britain or British-based clerics.
“If we are to defeat this threat, I believe it’s time to turn the page
on the failed policies of the past,” Cameron said. “Instead of ignoring
this extremist ideology, we — as governments and societies — have got to
confront it, in all its forms.”
AP contributed to this report.