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The Iranian team received a warm welcome to Germany this weekendImage: AP

Ahmadinejad Would Face Cool Reception at World Cup

DW staff (ncy)
June 5, 2006

Berlin was reserved in its response to Iran's president saying he would come to the World Cup if his team made it beyond the first round. The head of Germany's soccer association, however, said he would get an earful.


The German government would deal with the issue if it actually becomes one, a foreign ministry spokesman told the DPA news agency.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reaped international criticism for repeatedly denying the Holocaust and questioning Israel's right to exist. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called his comments intolerable.

In effect, there is no way Germany could realistically prevent Ahmadinejad from visiting the country, the ministry spokesman suggested.

As a head of state, he doesn't need a visa to enter Germany. His visit could only be blocked if the UN passed a resolution requiring member states to do so, the spokesman said. Even then, Ahmadinejad could declare himself a member of the Iranian team, which Germany guaranteed free entry, he added.

Tough opponents

Theo Zwanziger, head of Germany's DFB soccer association, said on Sunday he opposed banning Ahmadinejad from the competition because that would "make him a martyr." But he added that the Iranian president should be subjected to public criticism if he shows up.

Iran Atomstreit Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Porträt Hintergrund Ajatollah Chamenei
Ahmadinejad received rebukes from around the world after denying the HolocaustImage: AP

"If he does come and enters Germany, then he will naturally be told in all clarity that what he has said is absolutely unacceptable, criminal and far removed from reality," Zwanziger told Deutschlandfunk radio.

He added that one could not greet someone who refuses to recognize the reality of the Holocaust.

At a reception for the Iranian soccer team in Tehran on Saturday, Ahmadinejad announced he would come to Germany if the players made it through the preliminary round of the World Cup. For months there have been conflicting reports about whether he would actually attend the tournament. Just last week a government spokesman said he would not.

On Sunday, the Iranian team arrived in Friedrichshagen on Lake Constance, where they will be staying for the World Cup. They will have to place first or second in Group D, against Angola, Mexico and Portugal, in order to stay in the competition.

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