Bloomberg: Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials were criticized today by a German Jewish leader and members of Schroeder’s own Social Democratic Party.
By Brett Neely
Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) — Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials were criticized today by a German Jewish leader and members of Schroeder’s own Social Democratic Party.
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly said the Holocaust is a “myth,” and called for the destruction of Israel. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany. Schroeder said the Holocaust was a “historical fact,” in a Feb. 21 speech in Tehran before meeting with Ahmadinejad, according to Agence France-Presse.
“I think this visit sends a terrible signal about Germany’s reputation to the world,” Stephen J. Kramer, General Secretary of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said in a telephone interview from Berlin. Kramer said the Iranian government is also responsible for extra-judicial killings, the stoning of women and other human rights abuses. “It seems to me he wants to reduce criticism from the Jewish side, but Holocaust denial is not the only issue we are concerned about.”
Other critics of Schroeder’s trip said the timing was poor, coming ahead of Iran’s presidential elections in June. Meeting with Ahmadinejad gives the appearance of support, Gert Weisskirchen, the SPD’s parliamentary foreign policy spokesman, was quoted as saying in an interview published today in the newspaper Die Welt.
“I wouldn’t have made this trip,” Weisskirchen was quoted as saying.
German deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg told a regular government press conference in Berlin today that Schroeder hadn’t been representing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government in any capacity.
Schroeder’s office said the four-day visit to Iran was made in a private capacity. He also met with former President Mohammad Khatami, who led Iran from 1997 to 2005, and plans to run against Ahmadinejad in a bid to retake the presidency.
“I doubt the president of Iran and other leaders would receive him if he were a private citizen,” Kramer said.