Germany will push for "political consequences" in the United Nations and the European Union over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's verbal attacks on Israel. The row comes just before nuclear talks with Tehran.
Vice Chancellor Franz Müntefering wants Iran to face "consequences"
Recent remarks by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the veracity of the Holocaust and that Israel be relocated to Europe prompted a harsh reaction from German Vice Chancellor Franz Müntefering on Sunday.
"Whatever is said will one day be desired to be done," the employment and social welfare minister said after a meeting in Berlin with Paul Spiegel, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Müntefering was referring to the Iranian president's comments in which he called on Germany and Austria to host a state of Israel on their soil if they felt responsible for murdering Jews during World War II. Ahmadinejad, who in October said Israel should be "wiped off the map," also described the Jewish state as a "tumor."
"Unacceptable" comments, says Merkel
Paul Spiegel, head of the Central Council of Jews
Spiegel has described the comments as the worst anti-Semitic attack by a statesman since Adolf Hitler and called on Germany to sever diplomatic ties with Iran.
Chancellor Angela Merkel described the remarks as "totally unacceptable" and the German government announced it would protest to the Iranian ambassador.
Analysts say the comments were an attempt by Ahmedinejad, an ex-member of the Revolutionary Guard, to woo Iranian radicals in the regime who relish confrontation with the West.
But Tehran said it was surprised the international community had so vehemently condemned Ahmedinejad's remarks.
"I'm surprised by the reaction to these comments. The president's statements were clear: if the Europeans have treated the Jews badly, they have to compensate at their own expense, not at the expense of the region," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.
Bad omen before nuclear talks
The controversy over Ahmadinejad's verbal attacks against Israel has cast a shadow over upcoming negotiations between the EU-3, Britain, France and Germany, and Tehran over Iran's nuclear fuel program.
Photo of reported nuclear area in Iran where uranium enrichment could be taking place
Iran has taken an increasingly hardline stance in its dialog with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Union over what it says is its right to produce nuclear energy for its electricity sector, but which the West fears could be secretly diverted to developing nuclear weapons.
Talks are intended to resume on December 21 in Vienna after a four-month break. Asefi said on Sunday that Iran would stick to its demand to conduct nuclear fuel work despite fears that such activities could be diverted to make an atomic bomb.
"This meeting will be very serious. Everything depends on this meeting," Asefi said of the planned discussions.
Nuclear energy "rights" at stake
The Iranian government has argued that as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it has the "right" to pursue fuel cycle work for peaceful intentions; the EU-3 and the United States worry that the uranium enrichment process could be taken a step further and used for military purposes.
Russia is supplying fuel for Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant
The EU-3 has proposed that Iran's enrichment work be carried out in Russia, but Tehran has rejected such a possibility. Asefi said the only chance for the negotiations was if the European side compromises -- even though this appears out of the question.
"If the Europeans are rational and act according to NPT and international agreements, there is nothing to worry about and the meeting will have a good result," Asefi told reporters. "It all depends on the European side and whether they enter the talks and give us our rights," he said.