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Iran: Khatami Completes Historic Visit To Germany

Weimar, 12 July 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian President Mohammed Khatami ends a three-day visit to Germany today with a trip to the eastern city of Weimar. Khatami is to meet with German President Johannes Rau and unveil a monument to the Persian national poet Hafez and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany's national poet, dramatist and novelist. Weimar is Goethe's hometown. Goethe's fascination with Islamic culture led to a collection of poems, West-Eastern Divan, published in the early 19th century. The collection includes a section dedicated to the 14th century poet Hafez.

Khatami and Rau also are to take part in a discussion titled, A Dialogue of Civilizations. Iran's president returns to Tehran later today.

Yesterday, Khatami addressed business leaders in Berlin in a bid to improve Iran's trade with Germany, and German investment in Iran. He met also with the leader of Germany's largest opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union. A party spokesman says that the CDU's Angela Merkel and Khatami discussed, among other things, the situation of women and human rights in Iran.

German Jewish leaders and about 100 protestors called on Khatami to release 10 Jews convicted in Iran of spying for Israel. German officials said Chancellor Schroeder also brought up the subject. Khatami's activities in Berlin, however, concentrated on economic matters.

At the beginning of the Iranian president's visit Monday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that Germany wants a new start in economic and cultural relations with Iran.