Thursday, June 08, 2006

Germany Says Iran's Vice President Aliabadi to Attend World Cup

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Aliabadi will travel to Germany for the soccer World Cup, joining the stands in Nuremberg stadium on June 11 to watch his national team play Mexico, the German Foreign Office said.

Iran is one of 32 teams participating in the tournament that starts tomorrow and ends a month later. Responsible for sport in his country, Aliabadi will or has entered Germany as a diplomat and has the right to apply for security protection, said a Foreign Office spokesman who declined to be identified. READ MORE

Aliabadi may also attend the tournament's opening game in Munich tomorrow, when Germany meets Costa Rica, Reuters news agency reported, citing unnamed government officials. Aliabadi is also head of Iran's Physical Education Organization.

Top German officials including Bavarian Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein, who is coordinating World Cup security for Germany's 16 states, have expressed concern over potential clashes among Iranian nationals during the games. About 100,000 Iranians live in Germany.

The Berlin-based Foreign Office still has no information on whether Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend the tournament, the German ministry spokesman said.

Ahmadinejad may travel to Germany if his national team makes it through the first round, Deutsche Presseagentur said on June 3, citing comments he made in Tehran that day.

Iran's team moved into its quarters in the southern German city of Friedrichshafen on June 4. Angola, Mexico and Portugal are in Group D with Iran.

Ahmadinejad has questioned the Holocaust and Israel's right to exist. His remarks have caused outrage among politicians including German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and prompted concerns over security should he decide to attend the tournament.