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IRAN - July 7 - Germany Dismisses Khatami Visit Cancellation.

German officials play down local media reports that Tehran might call off next week's landmark visit by Iranian Pres. Khatami because of worries about planned demonstrations. One senior official says: "You can never rule anything out. But we have absolutely no such indications". He adds Iranian officials were still preparing for July 10's arrival, the 1st by an Iranian head of state since the late shah 33 years ago. Another official source also dismisses a report in 'Die Welt' newspaper that cited Berlin government sources saying Tehran's anger at the scale of demonstrations being permitted during the visit could cause it to be cancelled at short notice. There is no reaction in Iran to the report.

(Demonstrations of up to a total of 25,000 people have been approved in Berlin during the 3-day visit. Other protests, mostly led by the Iranian exile community in Germany, are also likely when Khatami visits the town of Weimar on July 11.) German officials, aware of the domestic difficulties these could cause for Khatami whom Berlin is keen to bolster as a liberalising force, say the Iranian leader will be kept well away from any demonstrators and largely travel by helicopter. One says: "But we cannot influence the exercise of constitutional rights such as that to demonstrate peacefully". Police will be out in force to ensure there is no repeat of the violence that marred the late shah's 1967 visit to West Berlin, when police shot dead a protesting Iranian student.

In an effort to limit the numbers in Berlin, the authorities have written to known Iranian opposition supporters in Germany telling them not to come to the capital next week and have re-installed temporary controls at Germany's otherwise open EU borders to keep out troublemakers. Following up on a petition signed by dozens of members of parliament calling for the visit to be cancelled, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exile opposition group based in Cologne, says on July 7 that it had delivered a further letter signed by 42,000 Germans to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. German officials say Schroeder would raise German concerns over human rights, arms control and international terrorism with Khatami but stresses that Berlin - with most of its European partners and increasingly the US, too - believed in dialogue and engagement with the once shunned Islamic state.

One source says: "No one's saying everything's perfect [in Iran]. But we want to strengthen the forces of reform". Sources say Schroeder would raise concerns about the fate of 10 Iranian Jews convicted of spying for Israel. They deny Israel had formally asked Berlin to cancel the visit. (Germany is the 3rd European country to host a visit by Khatami, after Italy and France. Berlin is keen to revive what it sees as a special relationship with a key regional power in the ME. Germany's prosecution of Iranian officials, convicted in 1997 of involvement in the murder of dissidents in Berlin, and Iran's death sentence, later revoked, on a German businessman had been major obstacles. Khatami served as a theologian in Hamburg a year before the Islamic revolution.)
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Title Annotation:Mohammed Khatami
Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Jul 8, 2000
Words:518
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