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Posted Sunday, June 20, 2004

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BRUSSELS-TEHRAN 20 June (IPS) Relations between Iran and the European Union continue its downward trend after the 25-members organisation issued Sunday a statement criticising strongly the Islamic Republic for its appalling human rights situation.

The statement put forward by Dublin, which is now chairing the European Union, expressed "grave concern" at the persistence of “widespread” human rights abuses, mostly on political prisoners, the situation of Iranian women and crackdown on journalists and dissidents.

"The European Union continues to be gravely concerned at the continued and numerous violations of human rights in Iran", the statement said two days after the Europeans “Big 3”, namely Britain, France and Germany sponsored a Resolution on Friday at the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency “deploring” that Tehran had not come clean and clear with the Vienna-based IAEA on its nuclear programs.

Delegates from the EU’s human rights commission met last week in Tehran with officials from the Iranian Judiciary, the fourth time the two sides have sat down since December 2002.

Families of Iranian political prisoners had tried to meet the European delegation, but they said authorities had prevented them. But the Iranian Judiciary always insists that there are no political prisoners in Iran, the same as the government says that it has no plan for making nuclear weapons.

We started off with critical dialogue; then we moved onto constructive dialogue; and now we seem to be in a phase of monologue


“The European Union must blame itself, for, we had provided them with a list of human rights abuses by the Iranian authorities, but they have ignored it. Now, they repeat exactly what we had told them before going to Tehran”, Mr. Karim Lahiji, the Head of Iranian League of Human Rights in exile told Radio Farda, the Persian service of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty.

“The statement would further cloud Iran-EU relations”, an Iranian political analyst told Iran Press Service, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The Iranians, for sure, would take the statement as another sign of the European Union going closer to the Americans, their most powerful enemy”, he added.

The statement said the EU delegation had "raised the cases of 40 prisoners of conscience at present in detention in Iran, who should be released immediately and definitively."

These include unequal rights for women; the use of torture in prisons and other places of detention, and a culture of impunity for perpetrators", the statement said, pointing also to "the lack of an independent judiciary, the use of the death penalty, as well as reports of the continued use of amputations and other cruel punishments; a continuing campaign against journalists and others who seek to exercise their freedom of opinion and expression, a flawed electoral process which impedes the democratic choice of the Iranian people, and discrimination on religious grounds, according to the EU statement.

But it did not say how the Iranians responded to the demand, but the tone of the statement appeared to back up comments from diplomats that the latest talks had netted "no concrete results". Last week, a senior official in the hard line judiciary even denied the presence of any political prisoners in Iranian jails.

"We started off with critical dialogue; then we moved onto constructive dialogue; and now we seem to be in a phase of monologue", was the wry spin on EU policy towards Iran given by one senior Tehran-based European diplomat.


Tehran's official position is that Israel, a State they describe as “a cancer planted in the Middle East by the Americans and the British” should be destroyed


As well as engaging Iran on the nuclear issue and human rights, the EU is also looking for progress in Iran's record on terrorism and a change in its stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In one of their first meetings, the Europeans had called on the Iranians to be “courageous” and recognise at once both the Jewish State and the Palestinian Authority, a demand that Iranians had rejected.

Tehran's official position is that Israel, a State they describe as “a cancer planted in the Middle East by the Americans and the British” should be destroyed and consider Palestinian and Arab organisations listed by the Americans as “terrorist organisations as “freedom fighters”, hence Washington and some European nations’ accusing Iran of supporting international terrorism and terrorist groups.

In the Dublin-sponsored statement, the EU warns Iran that if it fails to correct its human rights records, it would be denied the signing of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, an accord much needed by the Iranians.

Dr Mohammad Javad Larijani, an advisor to the Iranian Judiciary for International Affairs said continuing dialogue with Europe does not mean that Iran has to change its policies.

Progress on terrorism, human rights and nuclear issues has been set as conditions to the possible signing of a Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and the statement spelled out clearly that far more progress on the rights issue was needed before a trade deal can be considered. This is indispensable for the development of wider and eventually closer relations between the EU and Iran," the statement noted. EU IRAN 20604


Iranian ayatollahs says they have no political prisoners and no one is tortured


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