Reuters: EU member states failed to relax a travel ban on Iran’s foreign minister in time for him to attend this weekend’s Munich security conference, but plan further discussion on whether to let him visit the bloc in future, an EU official said Friday.
MUNICH (Reuters) – EU member states failed to relax a travel ban on Iran’s foreign minister in time for him to attend this weekend’s Munich security conference, but plan further discussion on whether to let him visit the bloc in future, an EU official said Friday.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, a conservative close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is on a list of Iranian officials barred from entering the European Union under sanctions imposed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
Some EU members favor letting him travel to Europe for the sake of engaging with Iran in the long-running nuclear dispute. But the issue is sensitive for the Netherlands, which has frozen diplomatic contacts with Iran after the hanging of a Dutch-Iranian woman for drug smuggling.
An EU official had said Thursday that member states had agreed to let Salehi visit the weekend conference in Munich, an annual set-piece attended by heads of government and ministers from many countries. Iran has attended in the past.
But the same official told Reuters on Friday: “Munich wanted to invite him and there was a general agreement among (EU) member states to take him off the list, but that didn’t happen.
“The plan is for EU ambassadors next week to discuss taking him off the list, because we need to be able to engage with him but it’s unclear if the Dutch will agree to that.” Organizers of the Munich Security Conference confirmed to Reuters that Salehi would not attend the event, but declined further comment.
U.N. Security Council diplomats in New York told Reuters on Thursday it made sense to allow Salehi to attend the three-day conference in the interest of continuing talks between Iran, the five permanent Security Council members and Germany on Iran’s nuclear plans.
The United States and its allies suspect Iran of using a civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons. Iran denies this and says it just wants power stations to generate electricity.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke, David Brunnstrom in Munich, Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations and Aaron Gray-Block in Amsterdam; editing by Mark Trevelyan)