The initiators of the open letter sent today to the EU's Austrian presidency, all 25 member states, and FIFA, soccer's global governing body, want to underscore how far Iran is now removed from the values the EU represents.'Political Signal'
Charles Tannock, deputy chairman of the European Parliament's Human Rights Committee, said the aim of the letter is first and foremost to send a "signal" that the EU will not tolerate Ahmadinejad's controversial views.
"Hopefully, it will send a very strong political signal to Iran and its president to stay well away from our territory because we don't want people like him to go around basically inciting hatred, and essentially inciting all the kind of things that we try so hard in the European Union to oppose." -- Tannock
"Hopefully, it will send a very strong political signal to Iran and its president to stay well away from our territory because we don't want people like him to go around basically inciting hatred, and essentially inciting all the kind of things that we try so hard in the European Union to oppose," Tannock said.
The letter lists Ahmadinejad's offenses, headed by his wish that Israel be "wiped off the map" and his denials of the Holocaust. The deputies behind the letter today all said they are "friends of Israel." The leader of the group, Czech deputy Jana Hybaskova, also chairs the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Israel.
The letter goes on to deplore Ahmadinejad's exaltation of "martyrdom." It says the practice represents a "direct threat to Western civilization."
Iran's intention to proceed with uranium enrichment in the face of UN condemnation is also cited, as is the country's "dismal" human rights record.Statement Of Disapproval
The authors of the letter conceded today that they were not optimistic that the European Union, which continues to seek dialogue with Iran on the nuclear issue, would heed their call.
But Hybaskova said that, at the very least, the authors of the letter want the EU to make it clear it rejects Ahmadinejad's views. "The intention is to clearly tell that even if -- if -- he would come to the [World Cup] he would not be a wished [sic] person there and his coming to Europe is not [a] sign of agreement with his policies," she said.
Under existing international arrangements, all heads of state whose countries are represented at the soccer world championship have the automatic right to attend the games. The EU deputies behind today's letter argue, however, that both FIFA and the EU are committed to act against countries violating human rights or inciting violence against other states.
Tannock said he wants the EU to treat Ahmadinejad exactly the same way as it treats Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and impose a travel ban on him. He also appealed to the German government to face up to its historical responsibility for the Holocaust during World War II.
"Ultimately, Germany would be the one that would have to agree in the [EU] Council of Ministers -- or even unilaterally -- to refuse his visa," Tannock said. "And we would make a special appeal to the German government particularly given their historic past and the legacy which they have to be mindful of that they should deny this man the right to come to watch the World Cup, absolutely."
However, the chances that Ahmadinejad might actually turn up in Germany appear to be receding. Jana Hybaskova said her office received a phone call from the Iranian Embassy in Brussels saying the Iranian president would be too busy with the affairs of his own country to travel to any games.