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Western Press Review: Europe Resumes Limited Relations With Iran

  • Don Hill

Prague, 30 April 1997 (RFE/RL) -- "At least 60 critics of the regime in Iran have been murdered in Europe since Iran's 1979 revolution, but until an April 10 decision by a German judge, no European court had blamed Iran for the crimes.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Europeans argued there was no evidence that Iran committed terrorist acts in Europe

So wrote Gail Russell Chaddock in a news analysis last weekend of worldwide reaction to the Mykonos trial in Berlin. The court in that case ruled that prosecutors proved the Iranian government was culpable in the murder of Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant. Western press commentary on Iranian-led terrorism and the U.S. and European responses continues this week.

The Christian Science Monitor's Chaddock went on to say: "Until the Berlin ruling, Europeans had argued that there was no evidence to support the American claim that Iran is committing terrorist acts in Europe." She wrote: "The Berlin ruling broke the assumption that no European court would dare implicate the Iranian government in terrorist acts."

Chaddock wrote: "For example, in December 1993, France refused to extradite two suspects wanted by Swiss courts in connection with the 1990 murder of Kazem Radjavi, the brother of an Iranian resistance leader, citing 'the superior interests of the state.' "

She went on: "A French court investigating the 1991 killing of Chapour Bakhtiar, a prominent dissident and former Iranian president, in Paris condemned the murderers, but stopped short of naming Iranian government officials as responsible for the killings -- a point praised by the official Iranian press, which followed the case. (And) Iranian dissidents say that a 1990 French presidential pardon for Anis Naccache, a terrorist convicted of a first attempt to murder Bakhtiar, was a signal that Iran could strike again with impunity.

"(Finally), Tehran publicly pressured the German government to squelch the Berlin case, citing the help Iranian diplomats had provided in obtaining the release of German hostages in Lebanon. But Foreign Ministry officials say they refused to try to influence the case."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The EU accounts for half of Iran's foreign trade

Commentator Josef Joffe, writing yesterday, condemned the European Union for a houndlike response -- noisy but lacking fangs. He said: "If you are not going to bite you would do better not to bark. Hesitant dogs lose credibility, as did the European Union states, which in two days of Iran talks will demonstrate their desire to get back to business as usual as soon as possible."

Joffe's commentary continued: "The very least that Iran could have done to reward Germany for its loyalty would have been to steer clear of terrorism on German soil. That is the least the Khomeinists could have done."

He said that the European "critical dialogue" with Iran "had long since degenerated into a dialogue with the deaf." Joffe concluded: "How are you to send signals that demonstrate you're earnest? By reaching decisions that are painful and not cheap, such as a ban on critical exports to Iran. After all, the EU accounts for half of Iran's foreign trade. So the principle to be noted is that only what hurts is really going to impress the other person."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: European Union ministers agreed on a series of relatively mild measures

In a news analysis today, John-Thor Dahlburg writes that European Union ministers ordered only mild sanctions. He says: "The ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, could find the necessary unanimity only on a series of relatively mild measures, including a continued freeze on 'critical dialogue.'

"They ordered an end to bilateral visits at the ministerial level with Iran and pledged to cooperate to expel Iranian agents from Europe and deny entry visas to Iranians working in 'intelligence and security.' The embargo on arms sales to Iran will continue, the ministers said.

"Perhaps most significantly, the Europeans stipulated there could be better relations with Iran only if 'Iranian authorities respect the norms of international law and refrain from acts of terrorism, including against Iranian citizens living abroad, and cooperate in preventing such acts.' "

WASHINGTON POST: EU governments spurned U.S. appeals to break ties with Iran

In an analysis today, William Drozdiak writes from Berlin that EU outrage was tempered by purely economic motives. He says: "The 15 European Union governments decided (yesterday) to send their ambassadors back to Tehran, spurning appeals from the United States to break off all political and economic ties with Iran because of its alleged role in sponsoring terrorism abroad. The decision to restore limited diplomatic relations signaled Europe's desire to sustain lucrative commercial dealings with Iran and fend off American calls for tougher sanctions that would isolate Tehran as a pariah regime."

He wrote: "The dual message (reflects the ministers' ambivalence) over how to punish Iran for ordering hit squads to kill the regime's opponents on European territory without ending hopes for a big expansion in trade. Iran has run up several billion dollars of debts with France and Germany as it seeks to acquire heavy machinery and high technology in exchange for its oil. Paris and Bonn have been reluctant to sever all ties because of intense lobbying from leading exporters."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The time is right for the U.S. to pursue multilateral sanctions

Political economist Darab Ganji commented this weekend that the time has come for governments openly to support Iranian dissidents seeking to replace the current administration. He said: "A German court has condemned the Islamic Republic of Iran and its top leadership for state-sponsored terrorism and assassination of its opponents on German soil. (And) reports continue to surface implying that Tehran had a hand in last year's bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen."

Ganji concluded: "A good first step on the political front would be for the United States publically to state its support for the forces of freedom and democracy inside and outside of Iran. On the economic front, the timing is right for the United States to more persuasively and vigorously pursue multilateral sanctions. Such moves would demoralize the tyrannical forces and hasten the triumph of freedom and democracy in Iran. Then, a democratic Iran will be in a position to guarantee the stability and security of the Middle East as well as the Muslim republics of Central Asia."

NEW YORK TIMES: The world should minimize the dangers presented by Tehran

The paper editorialized Sunday: "Nearly two decades after the Ayatollah Khomeini swept away the Shah's pro-American dictatorship, Iran's government is still driven by revolutionary fervor. A distorted sense of Islamic mission endangers neighboring countries and threatens perceived enemies in Europe and beyond. Sanctions will not change that attitude overnight. But the world is obliged to do all it can to minimize the multiple dangers presented by Tehran. "