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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 12:05 GMT
Iran press split over Patten visit
Iraqi Kurd refugees seek refuge in Iran after 1991 Gulf war
Iran will need help to cope with a refugee influx

The visit to Tehran of the European Union's commissioner for external relations, Chris Patten, has divided the country's press.

While some papers see it as an opportunity for Iran to move closer to Europe, others are suspicious.

Mr Patten is in Iran on a three-day visit for talks covering trade and the Iraq crisis.

EU policy 'confused'

One critical voice is the centrist English-language Iran News. Pointing to the "cracks and splits within the EU itself on Iraq", the daily notes that the US "is trying to manhandle the Iraq issue by intense lobbying and other means".

The EU is not consistent in its approach and policy toward Iran

Iran News

"It is worth noting that the Europeans are well aware of the importance of Iran as a major regional power that moreover has a long border with Iraq."

Iran had already suffered twice recently, during "the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the war against the Taleban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in trying to deal with the flood of refugees and other associated problems".

"Perhaps with the Patten visit, the Europeans want to give assurances to the Iranian government that they will provide our country with assistance in the event of another onslaught of refugees from Iraq."

However, Iran News continues, "Patten's visit and the comments he made before embarking on his trip to Tehran makes clear that the European Union is still insistent on its preconditions as a prerequisite for expansion of ties with the Islamic Republic".

EU External Relations Commissioner, Chris Patten

"Talking about preconditions speaks volumes about an incoherent and confused foreign policy within the EU."

'Interfering demands'

For the hardline, Persian-language Jomhuri-ye Eslami , there is concern that Mr Pattern, "like his predecessors, will want to convey a series interfering demands from European governments to our country's officials".

"European and American statesmen only prescribe recognized international regulations in various arenas to others and do not consider themselves bound by many of them."

In marked contrast, another English-language paper, Iran Daily, clearly welcomes the visit, remarking that Mr Patten has achieved "wide respectability" with a blend of "humbleness and warm personality".

The EU has supported Iran's enthusiasm for playing an effective role in the international battle to eradicate terrorism

Hayat-e Now

"When Chris Patten speaks, the press in Brussels listens... Moreover, Patten is a serious and real champion of dialogue and understanding between the Islamic world and the West."

"Few doubt Patten's genuine interest in promoting dialogue and engagement between the EU and Iran."

Shared positions

Iran Daily says the EU and Iran "share the same position on Iraq: The regime of Saddam Hussein must be disarmed, UN inspectors given all support, unilateral actions avoided and that the UN is the forum where the crisis ought to be resolved".

It calls on the Iranian leadership to "listen with attention to what Patten has to say on regional and international developments".

The pro-reform Hayat-e Now also welcomes the visit.

"During Christopher Patten's current visit to Tehran, the EU and Iran will discuss ways of achieving lasting peace in the region, without resorting to force.

"The EU has also supported Iran's enthusiasm for playing an effective role in the international battle to eradicate terrorism. During Patten's visit to Tehran, Iran's approaches, in the framework of the international battle against terrorism, will be discussed."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

03 Feb 03 | Middle East
29 Jan 03 | Middle East
28 Dec 02 | Country profiles
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