Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sweden to cut Iran ties

Jerousalem Post:
The Swedish parliament ceased all bilateral contacts with the Iranian parliament Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The move follows a letter Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin sent asking parliaments worldwide to express their support for Israel. The letter, which was sent to more than 80 parliaments, called for an international response to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call in October to "wipe Israel off the map." "In recent years Iran has not merely settled for verbal attacks on Israel, Zionism and the Jewish people. It has been unrelenting in its efforts to achieve nuclear military capability and has funded, supplied and provided operational guidance to several major terrorist organizations," Rivlin wrote in the letter. "I strongly feel that due to the severity of this statement, a worldwide parliamentary reaction is called for." The Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Bjorn von Sydow, took immediate action based on Rivlin's letter. "Although being restricted by constitutional limitations to act in matters of foreign policies, I can assure you that I will use every opportunity I have to condemn such statements... I have made sure that we cease all bilateral contacts with the Iranian parliament," Sydow wrote in response on November 14. He ended the letter by asserting: "I am willing to defend the rights of Israel to exist as strongly as I defend the rights of my own country to exist." A spokesman for Sydow told the Post that the speaker sent a clear signal that parliamentarians should not engage in official bilateral exchanges with the Iranian legislature. Rivlin's letter was delivered to parliamentary heads around the globe on November 1 by various Israeli ambassadors. It has received a broad spectrum of responses, a Rivlin spokesman said. "Several parliaments, including Guatemala, Chile and Uruguay have passed resolutions condemning the Iranian remarks, but the Swedish government has given the strongest reaction," said Yaakov Levy, diplomatic advisor to Rivlin. "We would have liked all responses to be as strong as the Swedish response." Levy added that the letter was also sent to the parliaments of several Arab countries. The letter was sent as part of a new program launched by Rivlin to strengthen Israel's relationship with foreign parliaments, said Levy. The letter regarding Iran was the second letter Rivlin sent to parliamentary heads; the first discussed the disengagement. Relations between Israel and Sweden were strained last year following a visit by Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds. The FM took Israel to task for alleged violations of international law, saying Sweden's younger generation is troubled to see these violations on television.
Freivalds raised the issue in meetings with President Moshe Katsav and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, saying targeted killings, destruction of homes and construction of the security fence violate international law, which is the guidepost for Swedish policy.
Freivalds's visit came six months after former ambassador to Sweden Zvi Mazel wrecked a display at the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm which he felt glorified the suicide bomber who murdered 21 Israelis at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa last year.


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