Iran General NewsScotland would be far better friend to us than...

Scotland would be far better friend to us than England, says Rasoul Movahedian

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The Times: A suggestion by the Iranian Ambassador to Britain that his country should foster closer links with Scotland than with England was treated with a mixture of bemusement and horror by Scottish politicians yesterday. The Times

Magnus Linklater

A suggestion by the Iranian Ambassador to Britain that his country should foster closer links with Scotland than with England was treated with a mixture of bemusement and horror by Scottish politicians yesterday.

Praising what he saw as Scotland’s antiwar stance and its opposition to the spread of nuclear weapons, Rasoul Movahedian, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said that there was “fertile ground” for a stronger relationship between the Scottish National Party administration, led by Alex Salmond, and the antiWestern Government of President Ahmadinejad.

Talking to The Scotsman on Thursday, the ambassador said that Scotland and Iran shared “similar views” on a range of international issues. “The views and the position of this present government of Scotland pleased many people in Iran and enabled us to make a distinction between Scotland and England,” he said.

“We are very much pleased by the views of the present government [which”> is against the war, against chemical weapons, against proliferation, and advocates a world based on peace and friendship, which strives for wellbeing and economic progress. This provides fertile grounds for further works.”

Headlining its story “ ‘Axis of evil’ offers hand of friendship to Scotland”, the paper quoted Whitehall sources as saying that this was part of an attempt by Iran to exploit tensions between Britain and Scotland on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war. “If the mullahs in Tehran think Alex Salmond is a good ally against London, it throws up questions about the First Minister’s judgment about his policies,” an unnamed source said.

Yesterday politicians across the divide described the ambassador’s intervention as not so much strategic as bizarre. Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, the Labour MSP, said that Mr Movahedian had been making mischief. “It is to the benefit of the Iranians to cause trouble and it would be a frightening thought for Scotland if it ever could be compared or confused with Iran,” he said.

Bill Aitken, the Scottish Conservative justice spokesman at Holyrood, said that the ambassador’s views were unhelpful. “It is certainly true that many Scots, including myself, have had serious reservations about some aspects of the UK Government’s Iraq policy, but to suggest that we have more in common with Tehran than London is simply nonsense,” he said.

“There are sufficient people north of the Border attempting to drive a wedge between the different parts of the UK, without the ambassador contributing in this manner.”

Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, said: “Perhaps it takes one ayatollah to recognise another in Alex Salmond.”

He added: “Any similarity between that and the democratic tradition of Scotland is hard to swallow. This is an attempt to cause mischief.”

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Secretary, said: “I don’t think the Iranian Ambassador would welcome the British Ambassador speaking to the Azerbaijani minority who live in Iran.”

Mr Salmond himself appeared less critical. A spokesman for the Scottish National Party Executive said: “The ambassador is doing no more than recognising that the party now forming the Scottish government was opposed to the war in Iraq – as indeed are a majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.”

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