Envoy to Iran summoned over Sarkozy's remarks

12th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

President Sarkozy’s comments on how it was impossible for him to shake hands with someone who said Israel had to be wiped off the map has created a stir in Iran.

TEHRAN – Iran has summoned the French envoy to Tehran to protest at critical comments by President Nicolas Sarkozy about his counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state television reported on Thursday.

Sarkozy, whose government has taken a tough stance against Tehran over its nuclear drive, said he could not even sit at the same table as Ahmadinejad and that he does not represent the people of Iran.

The foreign ministry summoned Bernard Poletti on Wednesday to express "its strong objections to the recent interfering comments by the French president," according to a ministry statement read on state television.

The ministry also said it warned Poletti "about the repercussion on bilateral relations of any repetition of such ill-considered remarks".

Sarkozy said it was "impossible for me to shake hands with someone who has dared to say that Israel should be wiped off the map," and that he would not "sit at the same table (as Ahmadinejad)".

His comments were made on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to the French presidency website.

Iran does not recognise Israel and Ahmadinejad has caused outrage by saying the Jewish state was a "cancerous tumour" and should disappear and that the Holocaust was a "myth".

Sarkozy acknowledged that the crisis over Tehran's controversial nuclear drive could not be resolved without talking to Iran, but said Ahmadinejad does not represent his people.

"We can not solve this crisis without talking to Iranian leaders," he said, but added: "I know perfectly well that the Iranian president does not represent Iran, much less the Iranian people."

"The Iranian people are one of the greatest people of the world, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, cultured and open, but they have the misfortune to be represented today by some of their leaders."

Iran is under international sanctions for rejecting repeated calls by the UN Security Council to freeze uranium enrichment, a process which makes nuclear fuel as well as the fissile core of an atom bomb.

Western countries led by the United States charge that Iran is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons but Tehran insists its programme is aimed solely at generating energy.

The Islamic republic has also often been criticised by international rights groups and last month a UN General Assembly commission adopted a resolution denouncing human rights violations in Iran.

"France's extremist and tactless attitude will have undesirable consequences on relations between the two countries," the Mehr news agency quoted Iran's deputy foreign minister Mehdi Safari as saying.

[AFP / Expatica]

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