BRUSSELS, 10 Mar. (IPS) A group of Iranians describing themselves as supporters of Monarchy forced Thursday a Lufthansa passenger plane to land in Brussels and in a statement, denounced the crimes committed by the clerical rulers of their native country.
News about the dramatic event were confusing and sketchy, as Belgian authorities said officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry were talking to the protesters, who refused to disembark, but allowed all other passengers to leave unharmed.
"We are talking to these people. They are non-violent and it's not a hijacking. It's apparently a group that wants to restore the monarchy in Iran", the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
We are talking to these people. They are non-violent and it's not a hijacking.
“This is not a hijacking”, said police spokeswoman Astrid Kaisen, adding “They are sitting on the plane and they don’t want to come off”, she said.
“No force has been necessary and no extra security measures were taken”, she said.
Belgium's RTL television said the group handed a statement to police protesting about EU relations with the Islamic Republic.
A young Iranian based in Brussels who identified himself as Ramin and said he was speaking on behalf of the passengers, said the action had been under preparation for five months by a London-based Iranian monarchist group, "Azarakhsh" (thunderbolt).
"We all ask the leaders of the European Union (not to) support the regime in Iran. We don't ask nobody, no country, or any power in the world to help us to change the regime. We can do it ourselves", he said.
But the British news agency “Reuters” quoted another protester saying "We want the European Union to remove the Islamic leaders from Iran. We want to remove the mullahs from power", Armin Ateshgar, speaking with a mobile phone from the aircraft.
He was referring to the ongoing negotiations between Britain, France and Germany with Iranian officials on the controversial Iranian nuclear projects that the United States, Israel and some other nations say are aimed at producing atomic weapons.
The latest round of talks between Iranian officials and the Eurpean Troika ended in deadlock in Geneva, after the Iranian side warned it would not back off from its plans to enrich uranium.
And in parallel development, Pakistan acknowledged Thursday fro the first time officially that Abdol Qadir Khan, know as the “father” of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, had sold Iran parts and technologies for the making of centrifuges.
Kept under house arrest, Islamabad nevertheless refuses international experts and inspectors from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency to meet the “rogue”scientist.
The 59 to 70 passengers, all Iranians leaving in the West, were talking to the Belgian authorities after other passengers and crew left the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt and the pilot disabled the plane.
Atshgar said a group of five officials from the Belgian Foreign Ministry had entered the aircraft and spoken to the protesters but he gave no further details.
Atshgar, who said he held a Belgian passport, added that he and his fellow protesters would not leave the aircraft until they had spoken to a member of the European parliament. He said there were children and pregnant women on the plane but added there were no weapons and the mood was calm and safe. He insisted the European Union should help oust Iran's leadership.
"We want to say to all the world's leaders, especially from the European Union, Belgium, France, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands hands off and stop supporting this Islamic rule by removing it from Iran", Atshgar said.
We want to say to all the world's leaders, especially from the European Union, hands off and stop supporting this Islamic.
A Lufthansa spokesman said the plane, a Boeing 737, had landed in Brussels's Zaventem airport at 2 p.m. (0800 EST) on schedule with 103 passengers and crew.
Christina Zia, who said her father called her on his cell phone from the plane, told the American news agency “Associated Press” that the protesters were supporters of the late shah and wanted to draw attention to Iran’s problems.
“There are no weapons. This is nothing dangerous. They only want the world to see the problems, to see that Iran is not what the world sees today”, she said, speaking from Germany
The group had a letter for NATO and refused to leave the plane until they are allowed to hand it over to the alliance, Zia said, adding that she did not know its contents.
This is the first time that pro-Monarchist Iranians stage such a protest, reserved until now to left wing groups.
“If it is confirmed that the protesters are monarchists and if the operation ends peacefully, one can say their popularity, already substantial in Iran and among Iranian Diaspora, would certainly increase”, one Iranian analyst commented to Iran Press Service on condition of anonymity.
Though there are several monarchist groups in Germany, some of them well organised and claiming more than 1.000 memberships, but the majority of Iranians supporting parliamentarian monarchy live in the United States, concentrated mostly in California, from where they operate several radio and television stations beamed to Iran.
The Thursday operation comes at a time that the 26 years-old Islamic theocracy is more and more isolated both at home and outside and the so-called reformers, led by the outgoing President Mohammad Khatami have lost their popularity with the population, analysts pointed out.
The protesters, according to Mr. Foroud Fouladvand, an Iranian activist who run a television network from London are chanting: "We are the messengers of peace. We are against global terrorism. We will remove the malignant terrorist regime of the Mullahs".
However, under strong pressures from Tehran, protesting to the virulent anti-Islamic broadcasts of Mr. Fouladand, the station was shut down.
U.S. Iranian activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, who is in phone contact with Fouladvand, told “WorldNetDaily” the protesters want an internationally monitored referendum that would enable the Iranian people to choose their next form of government.
Zand-Bonazzi believes the Iranians want a secular democratic state, not a "reformist" regime as advocated by President Mohammad Khatami, who, she said, simply is carrying out the wishes of the ayatollahs.
"This is the first of a series of confrontations with the European Union", Zand-Bonazzi warned. "They will always be peaceful and respectful, but the leaders of Europe have to back down now".
The first order of business, she said, is for Europe to recognize the terrorist threat posed by the Iranian regime.
"[The mullahs] may say they are against the U.S. and Israel, but they are against a secular and democratic lifestyle, which includes Europe", she stressed. ENDS IRAN PLANE 10305