Iranian President Mohammed Khatami wound up a trip to Germany with a visit to the nation's cultural capital Wednesday, eager to show that Iran is open not only to investment but also to an exchange of ideas with Europe, reported The Associated Press.
After two days in Berlin, where politics and business took center stage, Khatami flew to Weimar for a tour of the house of Johann Wolfgang Goethe - Germany's greatest literary classicist - and a discussion with his hosts about what it means to be a tolerant, civilized society.
Khatami, the first Iranian leader to visit Germany since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, has portrayed his trip as a fresh start after years of strains with Western Europe over human rights in Iran and other irritants. He has lobbied business leaders for much-needed investment and also praised German culture.
Asked about human rights Tuesday on ZDF television, he replied that every nation had the right to its own interpretation, based on its culture and history - but the common factor was that "every person has human dignity."
Security was tight in Weimar, an eastern German city of 62,000, after reports of planned demonstrations by Iranian opposition groups living in exile in Germany and other European countries, said the AFP.
Shortly before his arrival, a small group of protesters hung banners, chanted and blew whistles from the top-floor windows of a house a short way down the street from Goethe's, reported AFP.
Police moved into the building and pulled the demonstrators back inside.
Though Khatami's trip was meant to improve ties with western Europe, he said Tuesday that a new relationship with the United States was possible, too - but only if Washington follows its recent softer tone with "concrete steps."
In the ZDF interview, Khatami appeared to respond to a major overture in February by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who acknowledged past policy such as supporting the Shah had created mistrust, said the AP.
"If the US lets this admission be followed by deeds and also tries in practical policies to make up for the policies of the past, then we could proceed with good prospects for the relationship between both countries," Khatami said - (Several Sources)
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