Iran FM’s upcoming visit to Vienna sparks criticism

Arrival of Ali Akbar Salahi to global forum raises outrage as embassy spokeswoman says Iran should be "isolated" and "feel sanctions."

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
February 26, 2013 05:51
2 minute read.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi [file]

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi 370 (R). (photo credit: Andreas Manolis / Reuters)

 
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BERLIN – The slated arrival this week of Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, to the fifth Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in Vienna sparked sharp criticism from Israel’s embassy to Austria.

“We think Iran should be isolated and feel the pressure of sanctions,” an embassy spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

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The two-day forum begins on Wednesday and aims, according to the UN’s website, to “bring together decision-makers, experts and a variety of stakeholders in the field of intercultural and interreligious dialogue from all over the world.”

Though the EU sanctioned Salehi for his work on Iran’s enrichment of uranium, the EU lifted its prohibition against Salehi to allow him to travel.

The Israeli spokeswoman in Vienna said Israel “supports IAEA” meetings with Iran in Vienna where Iran is “supposed to negotiate disarmament,” but the UN event is turning Salehi’s trip into a visit with Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, among many, and does not place pressure on Iran.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN agency, is located in Vienna.

Spindelegger told the Post in an email, “I just arrived back from a visit to the Gulf region. There are large concerns in the region about a nuclear armed Iran. Should Iran finally choose this path, I fear a nuclear arms race in the region, which would make the region more insecure.”

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Alexander Schallenberg, a spokesman for Spindelegger, told the Post on Monday that the minister, along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, would open the Alliance of Civilizations forum.

“Iran is like most of the other UN countries a member of this alliance and will, therefore, be participate as it did in the past,” Schallenberg said.

He added that Spindelegger would meet with all participating foreign ministers and a “meeting is also planned with Foreign Minister Salehi.”

Spindelegger would use the meeting to make clear Austria and the EU’s position toward Iran’s nuclear program and call on “Iran to let go of its unacceptable delaying tactics,” the spokesman said.

“We see it as a good sign” that negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany would resume on Tuesday, Schallenberg said.

“We want, however, to finally see that Iran is serious about the negotiations and does not continue to play for more time,” he said.

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