EU lawmakers call off Iran trip

EU calls off Iran trip i

iran opposition protest france 248.88 AP (photo credit: )
iran opposition protest france 248.88 AP
(photo credit: )
A delegation of EU legislators on Monday canceled a planned trip to Iran after US congressmen sent a letter of protest to Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament. A parliamentary source, however, told the The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that "the authorities in Iran" canceled the meeting. He cited an Islamic Republic News Agency report in which an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman announced the cancellation of the joint parliamentary meeting. According to media reports, officials on both sides are accusing each other of terminating the visit. The EU delegation still wanted to travel this week to Teheran, but the meeting has been called off for now. Yet there were sharp disagreements within the delegation, and two legislators from Holland and the United Kingdom pulled out of the planned trip because of Iran's crackdown on the pro-democracy movement and its jingoistic foreign policy. In the letter the congressmen wrote, "We believe that such a visit, especially at this critical juncture, is counterproductive and potentially damaging to the international community's efforts to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. "As you know, Iran's leaders have been relentlessly pursuing nuclear capabilities for several years, in violation of their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). They have threatened their neighbors as well as the United States and the European Union. "As prime funders of Hamas and Hizbullah, they have threatened Western targets, sought to destabilize a critical region in the world, and dedicated themselves to the destruction of the State of Israel." The letter was signed by 15 members of Congress. Asked if it prompted the EU delegation to cancel its January 8 visit, the parliamentary source said he did not know. He referenced, however, a wire service report that "after a storm of protest," the trip was canceled. The parliamentary source added that the delegation had wished to discuss "the election turmoil following the June election with their Iranian counterparts and human rights activists." The congressional letter noted that "no delegation from a Western parliament has visited Iran in over a year, precisely to demonstrate to Iran that their behavior is unacceptable to the international community. We believe that a visit from the EP would send the wrong message to the Iranian government and undermine the international efforts to end their nuclear program." The letter condemned Iran's "sham elections" last June and the arrest and torture of protesters following the vote. According to a report on Monday in the state-controlled Iran Press TV, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said that "the visit would take place another time... The decision is aimed at making the utmost use of constructive parliamentary cooperation between the two sides and drawing up necessary plans." In 2008, the EU was Iran's No. 1 trade partner, with imports and exports totalling €25.4 billion. The trade relationship has raised security alarm bells because many European firms, due to lax export control laws, are able to deliver so called dual-use equipment that can be used for the Islamic Republic's nuclear weapons program. In December, German energy giant Siemens AG was reported to have delivered sophisticated technology to Iran for its atomic weapons program.