Berlin Says Ties with Iran 'Unchanged' after FM Met Ahmadinejad


Germany stressed Monday its policy towards Iran had not changed after its foreign minister held a controversial meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the weekend.

"Our international partners know perfectly well that nothing at all has changed in terms of our attitude to Iran," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular government news conference.

"We are still very concerned about Iran's nuclear program and it is clear that the situation there in terms of human rights and political freedom is unacceptable," he added.

On Sunday, the minister, Guido Westerwelle, traveled personally to Iran to accompany two German reporters back home as they were fined and freed after interviewing the son and lawyer of a woman facing death by stoning.

During his brief stay, the first trip a German foreign minister has made to Iran since Joschka Fischer visited in October 2003, Westerwelle met his counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi as well as Ahmadinejad.

Upon his return, Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin that he was relieved the journalists' ordeal was over and hoped they could "quickly return to a normal life."

"I thank my Iranian counterpart for his helpful support on this issue," he said, adding that he had broached the subject of human rights "with urgency in all the talks I had".

Seibert said there was "always a choice to be made in this sort of situation. In this precise case, the minister decided -- and it was clearly the right decision -- to meet Ahmadinejad."

Merkel was "very satisfied with the overall outcome of the trip," her spokesman said.

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