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The BBC's Rob Broomby
"He was greeted with full military honours"
 real 28k

BBC's Jim Muir in Tehran
"The visit is opposed by most of the German parliament"
 real 28k

Professor Michael Steiner, German government
We want to renew close ties
 real 28k

Monday, 10 July, 2000, 20:12 GMT 21:12 UK
'New start' for Iran-German relations
Anit - Khatami protestors in Berlin
Protesters say Mr Khatami's reformist image is a front
Germany and Iran pledged to boost their economic ties on Monday in talks between leaders of the two countries.

We can speak of a really good visit

Gerhard Schroeder

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder declared a "substantial new start" to relations with the oil-rich state after years of strained relations.

Security was tight for President Khatami's landmark three-day visit as thousands of Iranians opposed to the regime took part in demonstrations in the capital.

Speaking at a joint news conference after the talks, Mr Schroeder said export guarantees for German investments in Iran would be increased five-fold to 1bn marks ($490m).

A bilateral economic commission which has not met since 1991 would also be revived soon.


"We can speak of a really good visit which opens up broad fields of political co-operation," he said.

"Of course, we talked about subjects on which we differ, and we made our views clear."

He said cultural and scientific ties would also be increased, as well as efforts to fight international crime.


Germany and Iran: Strained ties
1997: German court rules Tehran ordered the death of four dissident Iranian exiles in Berlin
1998: German Helmut Hofer arrested and initially sentenced to death for an affair with an Iranian woman; released in January
2000: Iran's judiciary orders the arrest of intellectuals who attended a Berlin conference
German officials said Iran's human rights record - including the recent conviction of 10 Iranian Jews as spies for Israel - was also discussed "very intensively".

Mr Khatami, who was greeted in Berlin with full military honours, said his visit was a sign that Iran wanted to co-operate with the West.

Germany is keen to show support to the reformist Khatami, who was elected by a landslide in 1997.

The three-day visit is the first by an Iranian head of state to the country since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Protestors

About 7,000 protesters marched through Berlin waving Iranian flags without the Islamic symbol, flanked by 4,000 officers on duty.

Khatami is no Gorbachev

Dowlat Nowrovzi, Iranian exile

Protest organisers, the National Council of Resistance (NCR), had hoped for more than 20,000 supporters, but said many supporters had been refused entry to Germany or had been told to stay at home.

The NCR - the political wing of the Iraq-based Mujahideen Khalq armed resistance movement - says Mr Khatami's reformist image was just a front for the existing one-party state.

"Khatami is a mullah who wants the system to remain. Khatami is no Gorbachev," Iranian exile Dowlat Nowrovzi said.


President Khatami
Tight security surrounds President Khatami's visit
"Freedom of expression is being curtailed today at the heart of Europe for the sake of Khatami," said Perviz Khazai, an NCR representative in Scandinavia.

When asked about the demonstrations, Mr Khatami said: "I think it is fine if someone protests and opposes the government, but I cannot approve if this is done by terror and violence."

Mr Khatami appeared to refer to be referring to the Mujahideen Khalq, which has been described by Germany's domestic security service as a sect-like movement with "a democratic deficit coupled with a heightened readiness to commit violence".

Pressure at home

President Khatami faces stiff opposition to any Western influence at home from Muslim hardliners, who still wield considerable power.

The president, who has called for free speech and a free press, is frustrated at home by the overwhelming authority still held by the conservative clerics - who control the judiciary, the official media and the armed forces.

The hardliners have closed 19 publications and detained several reformist writers and activists.

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See also:

10 Jul 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Khatami's high-risk venture
26 Feb 00 | Middle East
Khatami's caution to West
15 Jul 99 | Middle East
Analysis: Student power in Iran
20 Jan 00 | Middle East
Iran frees German businessman
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