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European Jewish leader wants MEP Iran trip cancelled

Chairman of the European Council of Tolerance and Reconciliation Moshe Kantor gives a speech during the European Medal of Tolerance ceremony at the European Parliament in Brussels on October 16, 2012. (AFP PHOTO / Thierry Charlier)

BRUSSELS: The head of the European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor called Monday for European Parliament members to cancel a visit to Iran which he suggested would bring "disgrace" to the EU, this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The visit "would send troubling messages to those groups inside and outside Iran who are risking so much in their fight for democracy, the rights of women and those of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran," Kantor said in a letter to parliament head Martin Schulz and party leaders.

"Moreover (such a visit) would bring disgrace not only on the delegation, but on the institution of the European Parliament itself," Kantor wrote.

The planned official parliamentary mission to Iran from October 27 to November 2 has sparked strong opposition, coming after a new package of even tougher EU sanctions on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme.

Iran would use such a visit "to show that the European Union is not serious in its policy of maintaining Iran as a pariah state," Kantor said.

Nine MEPs from all but one of the parliament's groups -- the eurosceptic right-wing alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists -- are planning to go on the visit, originally agreed in July, an official said last week.

The team will be headed by the president of the European Parliament-Iran group, Finland Greens MEP Tarja Cronberg.

The official said there was a "sharp" discussion on whether to go ahead with the visit but that leaders of the parliament's political groups finally had voted in favour.

The European Union last week imposed a tough package of sanctions against Iran, aiming to push global talks with Tehran on its contested nuclear programme.

Both the parliament and the bloc are constant critics of the country's human rights record.

 

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