DPA: A visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki sparked an outcry Tuesday in the European Parliament in Brussels, with one lawmaker calling him “a murderer.”
Brussels – A visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki sparked an outcry Tuesday in the European Parliament in Brussels, with one lawmaker calling him “a murderer.”
British conservative Struan Stevenson launched his verbal attack before Mottaki entered the foreign affairs committee for a closed-door hearing. He was holding a picture of Neda Agha Soltan, a student killed last year during demonstrations against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
A dozen centre-right deputies from Italy, Spain and Estonia took part in the protest, but all were unceremoniously pushed away by security to make space for Mottaki.
A brief tussle between EU lawmakers and the European Parliament’s guards ensued, but no injuries were reported.
Deputies and EU assembly officials who listened to Mottaki said he rejected all criticism of Iran’s human rights record and defended his country’s nuclear programme, which Western nations fear may be used for military purposes.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish EU deputy who was part of the anti-Mottaki demonstration, said “the first thing (Mottaki) did” was to criticise Israel for Monday’s attack on a flotilla defying the naval embargo on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in at least nine deaths.
“It was a shameful session,” Vidal-Quadras said.
A German liberal, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, told the German Press Agency dpa that Mottaki was blunt “to the point of being offensive, saying the EU did not have a foreign policy.”
The bloc has for years negotiated on behalf of the international community with Iran’s representatives, but never managed to strike a deal on the nuclear issue.
Emerging from the hearing after an hour and a half, Mottaki told journalists he had had “a frank and somewhat friendly discussion” and claimed it had been “in general a good meeting.”
Several EU deputies said he should not have been given a platform.
“It’s like inviting (Nazi Germany foreign minister Joachim von) Ribbentrop to the European Parliament, the man is a disgrace,” Stevenson told dpa.
But the president of the EU assembly’s foreign affairs committee, Italian centre-right politician Gabriele Albertini, defended the decision.
“The alternative is either to confront opinions that may be different from our own or to ignore them, and we are in a parliament that draws inspirations from the values of freedom of expression and democracy,” he said.
Mottaki came to Brussels against the backdrop of increased tensions in the Middle East due to Israel’s flotilla attack, while the United Nations Security Council is debating a resolution that strengthens sanctions against Tehran’s regime.
The European Parliament has no say in the EU’s foreign policy, but often serves as a forum for debate on international affairs.