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Iran denies visas rejected for European Parliament delegation

Iran Materials 29 October 2011 19:17
Iran on Saturday denied that entry visas for a European Parliament delegation to come to Tehran had been rejected, despite insistence out of Europe that that was the case, DPA reported.
Iran denies visas rejected for European Parliament delegation

Iran on Saturday denied that entry visas for a European Parliament delegation to come to Tehran had been rejected, despite insistence out of Europe that that was the case, DPA reported.

The delegation was scheduled to come to Tehran next week to meet with Iranian lawmakers, Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi, and members of the local opposition to obtain first-hand information on the country's political mood before parliamentary elections set for March.

Tarja Cronberg, chairwoman of the delegation for relations with Iran, told the BBC Farsi programme on Friday that, despite prior coordination, the visas for the delegation were rejected, meaning the visit would have to be cancelled.

But Iranian officials rejected that version.

"I read the remarks by Mrs Cronberg in the press and I am very sorry that she has cancelled the visit as, for our part, nothing has been cancelled and we were eagerly waiting for the delegation," a spokesman from the foreign policy commission of the Iranian parliament said.

"It may only be that there was more time needed (by Iran) to make the necessary arrangements for the (European Parliament) delegation trip, but there was still time left for the visa to be issued and no need to make premature cancellation," Kazem Jalali told Mehr news agency.

The Iranian spokesman hoped that the visit by the delegation could be rescheduled.

Observers in Tehran believe that the insistence of the delegation members to meet with the local opposition, whose two main leaders - Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi - have been under arrest since February, was the main reason for the Iranian Foreign Ministry not to issue the entry visas.

It is still unclear whether the opposition, many of its members jailed following the disputed 2009 presidential election, would be allowed to run in the parliamentary elections.

The 2009 presidential election was overshadowed by fraud charges and led to widespread street protests. Several former high-ranking officials from moderate and reformist factions have yet to acknowledge the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The Iranian government and judiciary have charged a number of former reformist officials, journalists and artists of having supported alleged opposition plans to topple the Islamic system in Iran. They have been sentenced to heavy jail terms.

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