Khatami in Austria; Calls on Europe to Reject US “Axis of Evil” Charges
Iranian President Khatami called upon Europe at the onset of a visit to Vienna Monday to reject US charges that Tehran belonged to an "axis of evil" threatening world peace.
Speaking after meeting Austrian President Thomas Klestil at the start of a two-nation trip to Europe, Khatami said it was the latest bloody events in the Middle East region that was "threatening the peace of the whole world."
He denounced the January branding by US President George W. Bush that Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, was part of an "axis of evil" that was developing weapons of mass destruction.
"States should not describe their opponents as evil," he said. "All states should work together to fight the real evil in the world, which is poverty, injustice, terrorism and violence", Khatami said, according to AFP.
Khatami's trip was his first to Europe since Bush used the "axis of evil" description, which has been followed by various reports that Washington was considering using nuclear arms against seven countries believed to pose threats to its security.
Khatami's first stop Monday was the meeting with Klestil, who in September 1999 was the first EU leader to visit Tehran since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Khatami was scheduled to meet in Vienna Wednesday with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. He is expected to seek to strengthen ties between Iran and the European Union and also to urge its 15 member states to do more for Middle East peace.
Khatami appealed to Europe's sense of history, saying the "axis of evil" "was terminology used in the Second World War. I believe no other states suffered in World War II as the EU states did, or lost so many victims."
"Who is the evil here? Forces which want war or those who preach dialogue between civilizations."
It was the Iranian leader's fourth visit to Europe in three years but his first since Bush's "axis of evil" declaration during his January 29 State of the Union address before Congress.
Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, tops a list of possible future targets for the United States in a wider war on global terrorism.
The European Union has rejected this prospect and said it would continue dealing with Iran in spite of Washington's viewpoint that the regime in Tehran is hostile.
Khatami was accompanied by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi and several other ministers.
During the trip Khatami also plans to meet Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) chief Ali Rodriguez, ahead of an OPEC ministerial meeting in Vienna Friday. Iran is a major world oil producer.
In Greece, where he is scheduled to arrive Wednesday for a three-day visit, Khatami is to hold talks with President Costis Stephanopoulos, who visited Iran in October 1999, and also meet with leading economic, religious and political figures. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)