22nd Jan 2021

Iran denies cancellation of EU lawmakers' trip

Several MEPs on Monday complained that the Iranian authorities made a last-minute cancellation of a planned trip to the country, but Tehran claimed that the EU lawmakers themselves postponed the visit.

"I regret this last minute move to block the EU Parliament visit to Iran, which is further proof of the Iranian authorities' blank refusal to allow any serious discussion about the grave unresolved issues in the country," German Green MEP Barbara Lochbihler, the delegation's chair, said in a statement.

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  • Iranian police continues to crack down on demonstrators (Photo: Faramarz)

She indicated that the Iranian ambassador to Brussels, Ali Asghar Khaji, had "in a surprise move" blocked the visit to the country scheduled for 7-11 January.

But Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that it was the lawmakers themselves who had decided to postpone the visit. He did not give a reason for the delay.

The Iranian state news agency IRNA, meanwhile, said the delegation had cancelled the visit because of protests by members of the US Congress.

Ms Lochbihler confirmed that she had received a letter from Congress asking her not to go ahead with the visit and claiming that it would be counter-productive.

"The isolated voices within the US Congress and EU Parliament who opposed the visit have given an easy excuse to Iran to block the trip on grounds of "media pressure." It is also a blow to Iranian civil society, which had high hopes for a European Parliament visit that would show solidarity with the concerns of millions of Iranians who have supported the so-called "green" movement," she explained.

The EU lawmakers were due to meet human rights activists as well as Iranian parliamentarians, as Iran's opposition faces a government crackdown amid protests over the disputed June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iranian security forces have arrested scores of opposition figures and dissidents since fierce clashes in Tehran on December 27 between police and protesters in which at last eight people were killed, according to opposition websites.

The EU has condemned Tehran's crackdown on opponents and called for the rights of protesters to be respected.

At a summit last month, EU leaders expressed support for new sanctions against Iran, warning that Tehran's refusal to negotiate over its nuclear programme must be met with a "clear response."

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