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Germany

German Jews Criticize Ex-Chancellor Over Trip to Iran

Germany's Central Council of Jews criticized on Saturday former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's plan to meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has in the past denied the Holocaust.

Gerhard Schroeder speaks with President of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines under photographs of the late Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini

Schroeder's trip to Iran has outraged German Jews

In an interview with the Hanover daily Neue Presse, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews Stephan Kramer said, "Mr.Schroeder is greatly damaging the reputation of Germany and the German government."

Kramer said that by meeting the Iranian president, Schroeder was supporting Ahmadinejad and his government, and appealed for the former chancellor to cancel his engagement, "on the grounds of human rights."

Just hours before he was due meet Ahmadinejad, the former German chancellor criticized the Iranian president's stance against the existence of Israel and his denial of the Holocaust.

"The Holocaust is an historic fact and there is no sense in denying this unparalleled crime," Schroeder said on Saturday, at a speech to the Iranian Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Teheran.

Taking responsibility

Schroeder at the meeting at the Iranian Chamber of Commerce

Shroeder urged Iran to act responsibly on the international scene

Schroeder said Iran needed to take responsibility and respect international rules, if the country wanted to be taken seriously as a regional power.

The former German chancellor added that comments about the Holocaust would merely distract from attempts to find a common solution to the Middle East conflict.

Iranian officials reacted promptly to the criticism of the former German chancellor.

"To find common solutions, we shouldn't forget the recent massacre of people in Gaza and should internationally condemn Israel for it," said the head of the Iranian Chamber of Industry and Commerce Mohammad Nahawandian.

It would be wrong to "measure the developments in the Middle East with two yardsticks," Nahwandian added.

Iran's ambassador in Berlin, Aliresa Sheikh-Attar, didn't think Schroeder's criticism of Ahmadinejad would damage ties between the two countries.

"The relations between Teheran and Berlin are too important to be overshadowed by a subject such as the Holocaust," Attar said.

Nuclear program

Montage of a rocket, the Iranian flag and a radiation symbol

Western nations have said Iran is developing nuclear weapons

An international dispute over Iran's nuclear program is one of the issues Tehran was hoping to discuss with the former chancellor.

Iran's parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani addressed on Saturday told Schroeder that it is impossible to deprive Tehran of nuclear technology for peaceful uses.

"Iran has observed international regulations and depriving Iran of nuclear technology and energy for peaceful purposes is impossible," Larijani said.

The latest remarks by Larijani, a former nuclear negotiator for Iran, came after the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday said Iran is continuing to enrich uranium, potentially a stage in making an atomic bomb, but has slowed down the expansion of its enrichment activities.

The United States and the European Union accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons. Tehran insists that its nuclear program serves the exclusive civilian purpose of generating electricity.

Schroeder: New chance to ease tension

Montage of Obama, Ahmadinejad with US and Iranian flags

A new US president could open lines of communication with Iran

Schroeder recommend Iran take advantage by the opportunity of a new US administration taking office to ease tension with the West.

"With the new US administration there is a chance of having a multilateral approach, not only with the Islamic world but with everybody... That is a good opportunity for Iran," the Mehr news agency quoted him as saying.

During campaigning, US President Barack Obama said he would engage in talks with Iran. In January he added "if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fists, they will find an extended hand from us."

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