Saturday, April 08, 2006

Iran president would be welcome in Germany for World Cup

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be welcome in Germany to cheer on his team at the World Cup but he would be taken to task for his anti-Israel comments, a German minister said on Saturday.

"Naturally he can come to the matches," Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said.

"It won't be a simple matter because of the things that he has said in the past that are simply unacceptable. But my advice is we should be good hosts. We want to be better.

"But I will certainly have a talk with him about the remarks he made," said Schaeuble during a podium discussion about the role of Germany's soccer federation (DFB) during the Nazi era. READ MORE

The head of the Iran soccer federation said this week that his president, a keen soccer fan, was considering coming to Germany for the tournament which starts on June 9.

Ahmadinejad has been criticised in Germany and around the world for inflammatory remarks about Israel, saying the country "should be wiped off the map" and questioning whether six million Jews were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Holocaust denial is a serious crime punishable with a prison term of up to five years in Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called Ahmadinejad's Holocaust statements unacceptable but said she was against banning Iran from the World Cup, despite such calls from a number of German and Israeli lawmakers.

Iran has also refused demands by Russia, China and Western countries to suspend activities that could be used to make nuclear weapons, insisting it has the sovereign right to a full nuclear programme.

Iran play Mexico in their first World Cup match on June 11.