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Hard-Liners Decry Proposed EU Office in Tehran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani (right) meets with EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton in Tehran in March.
A call by the European Parliament to open an EU office in Tehran has come under fire from Iranian hard-liners, who say the proposed headquarters would allow outsiders to meddle in the country’s affairs.

"The people of Iran will not allow another house of spies to be created in the country," Ayatollah Movahedi-Kermani, Tehran’s temporary Friday Prayers leader, said on April 4.

The cleric’s comments came a day after the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that the first steps toward opening a delegation in the Iranian capital should be taken by the end of the year.

The resolution criticizes human rights abuses in Iran and calls for a more active EU role in addressing the rights situation in the country and supporting civil society.

It also advises EU members to focus on human rights in their ties with the Islamic republic, a recommendation that has angered Iranian hard-liners in recent days. The resolution, they say, constitutes interference in Iran’s internal affairs.

Movahedi-Kermani added that the Europeans should learn their lesson from "America’s house of spies," a reference to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran that was seized by a group of students following the 1979 revolution.

He called the resolution "shameless" and dismissed EU concerns over serious human rights violations in the Islamic republic as "Western illusions."

Friday Prayers leaders in Iran are said to receive their talking points from the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

'Worse Than Quadrupeds'

A day earlier, the head of Iran’s Basij force, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, had harsh words for the EU and its proposed office in the Iranian capital. "The European Union is a good example of the Koran verse that says they’re worse than quadrupeds," Naqdi was quoted as saying by the hard-line Fars news agency.

Naqdi said the Basiji force will organize a human rights exhibition in Iran for EU representatives to visit. "Homosexuals [in Europe] have intercourse like animals. They have a surge in drug production, which they sell to their young people at a cheap price. Then in their resolution they say: ‘You don’t have the right to execute drug dealers, and release the homosexuals,’" he said, adding that the EU would not dare open an office in Tehran.

The resolution was also blasted by several lawmakers, including Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, who said that the proposed EU office was aimed at creating unrest in the country. Another lawmaker, Mohammad Saleh Jokar, said an EU office in Iran would be devoted exclusively to espionage.

The parliamentary resolution says the opening of an EU delegation in Iran would be an efficient means of influencing Iranian policies and fostering dialogue on human rights.

But Rouzbeh Parsi, a senior lecturer at Lund University in Sweden, says that Iranian hard-liners oppose any kind of opening with the West.

"They don’t want to have normal ties with Europe or other [Western] countries. They know that as a result of better ties with the EU and a removal of tensions, there could be more exchanges and give-and-takes. They’re afraid of that. That’s not something they want," Parsi says.