Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Iran summons Italian envoy over planned Rome rally


02 Nov 2005 18:26:12 GMT Source: Reuters

TEHRAN, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Iran's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday summoned Italy's ambassador to protest about plans to hold a rally outside the Iranian embassy in Rome on Thursday.

Italian politicians from both government and opposition ranks are due to attend the rally on Thursday evening to protest against comments by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week in which he said Israel should be "wiped off the map."

An Italian embassy spokesman said Ambassador Roberto Toscano had reiterated Rome's condemnation of Ahmadinejad's remarks during the meeting.

Italy "wants good relations with Iran and for Israel to exist in a safe environment," the spokesman said.

Italian Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli, a member of the far-right Northern League party, said Rome should react to the summons by recalling its ambassador from Tehran.

"I believe one cannot have a civilised relationship with people who have shown themselves to be uncivilised," he said, upping the war of words between two countries which have traditionally enjoyed good relations.

Iran's Foreign Ministry also took issue with comments by Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, who told reporters during a visit to Israel on Tuesday he hoped the next meeting of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog would refer Iran's nuclear case to the U.N. Security Council, where Tehran could face sanctions.

"Such a statement being made by an Italian foreign minister in occupied Palestinian territory is an example of the indifference to the massacre of defenceless Palestinians by Israel and its state terrorism," the official IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi as saying.

Tehran says Ahmadinejad's comments were a re-statement of its pro-Palestinian policy and did not represent an actual threat of violence against Israel.

Iranian officials have reacted angrily to the international criticism of the president's remarks, arguing that it was motivated by a desire to put pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Iran says its nuclear facilities will only be used to generate electricity, not make bombs as Washington suspects.

Thursday's demonstration in Rome has been organised by conservative Italian broadsheet, Il Foglio, which is partly owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's wife.

Among those expected to attend the candle-lit rally are Foreign Minister Fini, EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini and Piero Fassino -- head of Italy's largest opposition party.


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