MEPs condemn regime's nuclear programme & dissent crackdown
European Parliament press release - 20 January 2010
In a charged and emotive debate on Iran the regime's nuclear programme and the crackdown on political dissent drew criticism from all sides. Opening the debate the EU's new foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, told the House in Strasbourg that Iran's nuclear programme was in breach of its international obligations. Many Members made the crucial distinction between the regime of President Ahmedinejad and the people of Iran.
Tehran's continued defiance of the world community over its nuclear programme was a major topic in the debate on Tuesday 19 January in Strasbourg.
Iran "still producing enriched uranium"
"Iran does not respect its international obligations" was the clear statement to the House on the regime's nuclear ambitions by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton. She told the House that she regretted Iran had not agreed to engage in meaningful talks to broker a settlement either with the European Union or the wider international community.
For the Parliament's largest bloc, the centre right European People's Party MEP Josť Ignacio Salafranca told the House that Iran "was still producing enriched uranium". He asked how long Europe "could keep patience with such behaviour?" and whether the time had come for extra punitive measures against the Iranian regime.
"Ruthless nuclear ambitions of Ahmedinejad"
Socialist MEP Roberto Gualtieri, speaking for the second largest group, said that he believed Tehran had the right to a peaceful civilian nuclear programme but that enriching uranium (with thus the possibility of weaponisation), demanded a response from the international community. The Italian favoured sanctions alongside dialogue with the regime.
British MEP, Charles Tannock, of the European Conservatives and Reformists group launched a scathing attacking on what he called "the ruthless nuclear ambitions of Ahmedinejad". This was backed up by Dutchman Bas Belder of the European Freedom and Democracy bloc who warned: "Iran's nuclear programme poses very serious security threats and the international community should act accordingly".
"Arbitrary arrests not acceptable"
Turning to the turmoil and political protest in Iran since last year's disputed elections, MEPs from all sides paid tribute to the courage and vibrancy of the protestors and condemned the regime's repression of protest and dissent.
For the Liberal group, the third largest group, Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake said that "I won my elections by criticising the government of my country" but that "young women doing the same in Iran would be arrested, beaten and raped". She called on Europe to take a tougher leading role.
Catherine Ashton paid tribute to the "vibrant and active" youth of Iran and said its women were highly educated and there was a "capacity for public debate".
However, she said that many viewed the Presidential election last year as fraudulent and that the regime must respect civil and political rights. She went on to say that "the use of violence against demonstrators exercising their right of expression and arbitrary arrests are not acceptable".
"Regime and people not the same thing"
For the Greens/EFA Barbara Lochbihler, the head of Parliament's delegation to Iran (which was recently blocked from visiting), pointed out that many European countries were supplying technology that allowed the censorship of protests in Tehran. She also said that the question had to be asked "whether sanctions will lead to a change in government or only harm society?"
Charles Tannock called on the House to support "the brave young opposition" and said that "Iran's regime and the Iranian people are not the same thing".
The European Parliament will vote a resolution on Iran in February.