NewsSpecial WireIran vexed by possible EU policy shift

Iran vexed by possible EU policy shift

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Iran Focus: Brussels, Jul. 06 – Iranian officials are becoming increasingly anxious that the European Union may change its policy toward the clerical state after the consolidation of power by the ultra-conservative faction led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. So far the official line touted by the European Union’s foreign policy point-man Javier Solana and other pronouncements by EU foreign ministers have been signalling a “wait-and-see” approach to Iran after the election
of hard-line candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran Focus

Brussels, Jul. 06 – Iranian officials are becoming increasingly anxious that the European Union may change its policy toward the clerical state after the consolidation of power by the ultra-conservative faction led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

So far the official line touted by the European Union’s foreign policy point-man Javier Solana and other pronouncements by EU foreign ministers have been signalling a “wait-and-see” approach to Iran after the election of hard-line candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Other indications point to growing pressures within the EU for a policy change on Iran.

Last week Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and two Italian ministers sharply criticised the turn of events in Iran, prompting hard-line Iranian Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, a key Khamenei ally, to cancel his official visit to Rome. The Italian press quoted a cabinet minister as saying of Iran’s President-elect, “Ahmadinejad is an evil man and hails from an evil regime”.

Italy’s European Commissioner, Franco Frattini, said in an interview with the daily La Repubblica, “the European Union could go as far as breaking off ties with Iran, if the new president gives negative answers [regarding Iran’s nuclear file”>”. He characterised Ahmadinejad’s position on the nuclear issue as “a hard-line stance”.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair also warned Ahmadinejad during a press conference not to think that the international community would “go soft” on Tehran’s nuclear policy.

“It would be a serious mistake if he [Ahmadinejad”> thought that we are going to go soft on them”, Blair added, “because we are not”.

The signals have been strong enough to worry Iran’s Foreign Ministry officials. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi hinted at a possible change in EU policy during a session of the National Security and Foreign Policy parliamentary committee.

The Tehran-based daily Sharq, run by an ally of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, wrote yesterday, “Asefi told senior Majlis deputies in the meeting that the European perspective has deteriorated vis-à-vis Iran”.

Majlis deputies also grilled Haddad Adel for his trip last week to Brussels, complaining that the Belgian government had shown great scorn for the Islamic Republic and the new President, according to ISNA news agency. One deputy, yelling at the Majlis Speaker, said that Belgian press ridiculed the official Iranian delegation headed by Haddad Adel.

“With the ascendancy to power of the hard-line faction in Iran, the Europeans will be under increasing pressure to change their policy”, Simon Bailey of London-based Gulf Intelligence Monitor said in a telephone interview. “Prospects for a successful outcome in September’s nuclear talks don’t look very encouraging right now”.

Iran has accused European governments of preparing the ground so that Tehran would be blamed for the expected breakdown of talks later this year. European diplomats informed of the progress of nuclear talks with Iran have privately told reporters that negotiations over Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program could be heading for a showdown in autumn.

In a separate development, two influential hard-line dailies wrote yesterday that Iran’s secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani would be replaced with a Revolutionary Guards brigadier general close to the Supreme Leader.

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