Solana: EU Wants to Engage More With Iran
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Tuesday that Europe wants to engage more with Iran, however denied any fundamental rift with the United States, which has branded Tehran part of an "axis of evil."
"We are much more engaged with Iranian leaders than the United States ... It is a question of the level of engagement, but not a fundamental contradiction," Solana told reporters prior to a meeting in Vienna with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.
He said the EU would pursue a "constructive but critical" relationship with Tehran. "We want to be engaged in a constructive manner ... but that doesn't mean that we are not going to tell the truth," he said, according to AFP.
"They have to listen also as far as reforms, and human rights, and the fight against terrorism," he added.
US President George W. Bush drew criticism from several leaders of the 15-member EU for his labeling in January of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as "evil" states, which sponsor terrorism and seek to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Solana played down the significance of such criticism. "I don't think it's that important the terminology we use," he said. "We in Europe use terminology which is not the same as is used in other parts of the world, in particular the United States. But the important thing is the politics."
The EU official met Khatami at a state dinner Tuesday, and they are due to hold more substantial discussions on Wednesday, before Khatami leaves for Greece, the second country of his European trip, said a spokeswoman for Solana.
On Monday Khatami, on his first trip to Europe since Bush's State of the Union address, called on Europe to reject the US charges.
"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," he said.
Solana said he acknowledged Iran's anger at the label. "I don't know exactly the level of anger that President Khatami has," he said, however added, "I know they don't like to be put together with another important historical adversary," referring to Iraq, AFP reported.
He also played up Khatami's role as a leader of progressive elements in the Islamic republic. "We want to try to help ... the progressive forces in the country which are represented by President Khatami," he conveyed.
In addition, he insisted the EU would press ahead with plans for a formal cooperation agreement with Iran. "We go a little further than the United States," he said, adding, "We cooperate and coordinate with the United States in a good manner." (Albawaba.com)
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