Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Iran blocks EU delegation visit

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - file pic
Mr Ahmadinejad accuses Western powers of meddling in Iran's affairs

Iran has postponed a visit to Tehran by Euro MPs who were going to meet Iranian opposition activists and Majlis (parliament) members this week.

The MEPs' visit had been planned for 7-11 January. Tehran said a new date would be set "by mutual agreement".

The EU delegation head, a German Green politician, accused Tehran of trying to avoid a focus on political unrest, following a spate of clashes in Iran.

Barbara Lochbihler MEP said Tehran saw the visit as "a risk not worth taking".

The cancellation was "another sad illustration of how much the Iranian leadership opposes any discussion of the major unresolved problems in the country," she said.

Meetings with Iranian foreign ministry officials and business representatives had also been planned.

Iranian security forces have cracked down on opposition protests since June's disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arresting dozens of activists.

US disapproval

European Parliament delegations visit parliaments around the world once every two years, in a programme of regular exchanges.

Fifteen members of the US Congress had opposed the MEPs' planned visit, in a letter sent on 22 December. The members of the Congress foreign affairs committee had argued that the timing of the visit was inappropriate.

The US is exerting pressure internationally to halt Iran's nuclear programme, which Washington believes to be aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Tehran insists the programme is civilian and entirely peaceful.

In recent months European nations have strongly criticised trials being held in Iran linked to the unrest that followed the June election, which the opposition alleges was rigged.

The Iranian government has accused Western nations of stirring up the violence.

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