By Nader Sardari, IPS Correspondent in Germany


It has now been almost confirmed that Iranian President Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami will pay an official visit to Germany due to take place in the second week of July.

Answering to reporters questions Wednesday, German President Johannes Rau said he look forward to meet his Iranian counterpart and hear his opinion on the question of Muslims and Christians coexistence.

He acknowledged that Mr. Khatami is waking on a tight rope to advance his reform process.

Quoting informed sources it did not named, the newspaper "General Anzeiger" of Bonn, the former Federal Capital placed said the Iranian president would visit Germany between 11 and 12 July.

Speaking to Iran Press Service, German and Iranian diplomats who asked not be identified also confirmed, saying that the visit is scheduled for mid-July "in principle and in case nothing serious, like the Berlin incident, would prevent it".

Mr. Khatami was supposed to visit Germany officially last April, but problems like the detention of Mr. Helmut Hofer, a German businessman by the Iranian authorities on charges of sexual relations with an Iranian Muslim girl on the one hand or the arrest of Mr. Hamid Khorsand, an agent of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry by the German authorities on charges of "spying" on Iranian organisations and personalities in Germany delayed the visit.

The Conference on "Iran in the aftermath of the Legislative Elections" that was organised last April in Berlin by the Heinrich Boel Stiftung, an independent cultural institute close to the Green Party with the participation of some 20 leading Iranian journalists, researchers, scholars, intellectuals and analysts plus a secularist lawyer and human rights activist, a female Publisher and even a cleric, most of them reformists, was marred by noisy demonstrations from groups opposed to the Islamic Republic.

After The Iranian Radio and Television, an organisation controlled directly by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the regime, broadcast 20 minutes of the 3-days meeting, showing demonstrators denouncing the Islamic Republic and it's leaders, a woman dancing sexy dances, another, half naked but keeping her Islamic scarf and a man completely nude, the authorities ordered the arrest of all the Iranian guests of the Conference and shut out all reformist publications.

Once the Islamic Republic's most important trade partner and political supporter among the European nations, Germany's relations with Tehran suffered a very heavy blow in April 1997 when a Berlin Court ruled that "all clerical leaders of the Islamic Republic, including Ayatollah Khameneh'i and Hojjatoleslam Hashemi Rafsanjani, then President were involved in the assassination of Iranian dissidents".

If the visit takes place, it will be the Iranian President's third to a Western European nation as he has already been to Rome and Paris. ENDS KHATAMI GERMANY 29600

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