Tensions Rise Between Berlin and Tehran | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 21.07.2005
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Tensions Rise Between Berlin and Tehran

Ever since the German defense minister accused the Iranian president of having been involved in terrorist activities, the diplomatic exchange between Berlin and Tehran has taken an unusually acrimonious tone.

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Did Otto Schily choose his words carefully enough?

In an interview for the German weekly Der Spiegel, published Monday, the German interior minister Otto Schily expressed his concern about "a fundamentalist coming to power in Tehran." He was referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was elected president of Iran on June 24.

"We can't be certain that he (Ahmadinejad) has absolutely distanced himself from terrorism," Schily said.

The spokesperson of the Iranian ministry of foreign affairs, Hamid Resa Asefi, responded to Schily's criticism of the Iranian president by calling it "unfounded and laughable" and advising the German minister "to express himself more carefully, get rid of the influence of Zionist circles and respect democratic principles."

Berlin strikes back

In a rebuttal from the German ministry of the interior, Rainer Lingenstahl, the ministry spokesperson, referred to his Iranian colleague's statements on Wednesday as "unbelievable outrageousness."

"It would be difficult to surpass the effrontery of such a voice from a country in which human rights are constantly abused, in which women are flogged as a consequence of dubious sentences, and in which critics of the regime, who have no access to legal support and appropriate legal procedures, are kept in isolation for months," said Lingenstahl.

"If there is a place in which democratic principles ought to be respected, as my colleague from the Iranian foreign ministry believes he needs to establish, then he should turn to his own country," he said.

A president with a shady past?

Der neue iranische Präsident Mahmud Ahmadinedschad Porträtfoto

Iran's newly elected president Mahmud Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad has been accused of being one of the hardliners who took part in the attack on the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. He is also rumored to have been involved in a murder of an exiled Iranian Kurd politician and his two associates in Vienna. But the official investigation of the Austrian authorities has produced no results, and neither of the two accusations have been proven.

The growing tensions between Iran and Germany are possibly related to the stagnating negotiations about Iran's atomic weapons. Although Great Britain, France and Germany insist that Iran gives up its plans for accumulating uranium, Iran has repeatedly turned down that request.

The Iranian spokesperson said his government would require an explanation from the German government for Schily's statements.

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