Thursday, June 01, 2006

EU Lawmakers Seek Travel Ban on Iranian Leader

A group of 75 European Union lawmakers called on Thursday for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be banned from entering the bloc until he renounces inflammatory statements on Israel and the Holocaust.

The deputies said it looked doubtful whether soccer fan Ahmadinejad would visit the Iranian squad in Germany for this month's World Cup, as once mooted, but called on EU leaders to take pre-emptive steps to prevent any future visit to Europe.

"There's nothing to stop the EU member states, individually or collectively, issuing a declaration that he will not be granted a visa and will not be able to come to any of the member states," Conservative CharleTannock said. READ MORE

Tannock said the EU had issued visa bans on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko to protest against suspected human rights abuses in their countries.

"There is precedent for this and there's no reason why it cannot be extended to President Ahmadinejad," he said, urging EU leaders to consider such a step at a summit in mid-June.

The 75 lawmakers who back the initiative say Ahmadinejad must renounce statements doubting the Holocaust happened and calling for the destruction of Israel, and insisted Tehran comply with international demands to curb nuclear activities.

Iran, which has major fossil fuel reserves, rejects Western suspicions it seeks the atomic bomb and insists it wants to develop a nuclear programme only for its energy needs.

Germany has resisted calls to ban either Iran from the World Cup or its leader from coming to watch, but it said last month that it was not expecting him.

Ahmadinejad, in an interview with news magazine Der Spiegel published last weekend, left open whether he would come.