Iran General NewsFrance sees progress in row over academic held in...

France sees progress in row over academic held in Iran

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AFP: Iran is showing encouraging signs that the case of a French academic prevented from leaving Tehran after his passport was confiscated could be resolved soon, the French foreign ministry said Friday. PARIS, April 6, 2007 (AFP) – Iran is showing encouraging signs that the case of a French academic prevented from leaving Tehran after his passport was confiscated could be resolved soon, the French foreign ministry said Friday.

Stephane Dudoignon, an expert on Islam and Central Asia, was briefly detained by police who seized his passport on January 30 during a trip to the southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province.

After two months of quiet diplomatic efforts to try to persuade Tehran to let the academic go home, France this week made a public appeal to Iran to quickly resolve the case, and on Friday reported progress.

“Iranian authorities have been making rather encouraging statements” about the Dudoignon case “these past days,” said foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei.

“We hope that a solution will be found quickly to settle the administrative problem and to ensure that Mr Dudoignon’s passport is returned and that he can leave Iranian territory,” he added.

Dudoignon told Le Figaro newspaper that Iranian authorities took issue with his research of Iran’s Sunni minority in Sistan-Baluchestan, a province bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The 45-year-old researcher was detained after photographing a procession of Muslim Shiites celebrating the holy day of Ashura and the reaction of Sunni bystanders in the town of Konarak, near Chabahar.

“It’s a very interesting topic that you are working on, but we do not want it to get out,” Dudoignon quoted security officials as telling him.

Dudoignon said security officials objected to his meetings with local leaders and his trip to Konarak, which authorities said was an “off-limits military zone.”

Sistan-Baluchestan has a Sunni majority in Shiite-dominated Iran and is home to the shadowy Sunni militant group Jundullah, which claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in February that killed 11 Revolutionary Guards.

Iran suspects the United States and Britain of supporting Sunni separatists there.

While Dudoignon was allowed to return to Tehran, authorities held onto his passport and he has been barred from traveling outside the capital.

The academic, who lives in France where he works for the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), told Le Figaro “I am condemned to wait. But it’s starting to drag on.”

Iran on Wednesday released 15 British naval personnel who had been held for 13 days, triggering a diplomatic crisis.

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