Khatami calls for new East, West dialogue
By Emma Thomasson
WEIMAR, Germany, July 12 (Reuters) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami,
the target of protesters' slogans and banners, wound up a landmark visit
to Germany on Wednesday with a call for a new era of dialogue between eastern
and western culture.
As he called for talk between civilisations and cultures, groups of
protesters breached tight security to accuse the Iranian government of
stifling free speech.
``New doors must be broken open for a true dialogue between civilisations
and cultures, to recognise the reality of the world and enable new insights
into the eastern and western world,'' Khatami told a panel discussion on
a visit to east Germany's cultural capital Weimar.
The moderate cleric, whose reform efforts since his election in 1997
have met stiff resistance from an isolationist Islamic elite, has used
his three-day visit to state his case for democracy and a cultural reconciliation
with the West.
Khatami, who urged the United States on Tuesday to take the next step
to revive diplomatic relations -- broken off after Tehran's 1979 Islamic
revolution -- said that outside support for reforms in Iran was important.
But he stressed that the Islamic republic would not simply adopt a
Western model as it strives for greater personal freedoms.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said it would be a great mistake
not to back Khatami in his reform drive -- which offered a ``great chance
for human rights, democracy, peace and stability,'' he told the Sueddeutsche
Zeitung in an interview to be published in the paper's Thursday edition.
Fischer said patient diplomacy was essential to integrate Iran in the
international community, stressing the need for sensitivity to reformers'
domestic power struggles.
LENIENCY FOR SPY TRIAL JEWS?
Khatami defended Iran's conviction this month of 10 Jews for spying
for Israel and suggested leniency could be shown when the case, which aroused
international concerns, goes to appeal.
``Justice is not the responsibility of the government,'' Khatami said,
adding that the convicted had not been treated differently because the
accused were Jews.
``The judgment was much milder than in other spying cases,'' he said.
``After the appeal the situation of those condemned might be better than
Amid tight security -- a major feature of the first visit by an Iranian
leader in 33 years -- Khatami and German President Johannes Rau declared
open a monument to the 14th century Persian poet Hafez, who inspired Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe -- Germany's most celebrated poet and author of the
``This discussion between Goethe and Hafez stands for a poetic and
beautiful dialogue between East and West,'' Khatami told a crowd in the
main park in Weimar.
Despite a police crackdown, groups of protesters managed to make their
presence felt, waving banners and shouting slogans, although the part of
Weimar where Khatami spent the day was completely blocked off to the public
by hundreds of police.
Young conservatives from Germany's Junge Union hung placards from windows
overlooking the historic square where Goethe lived, accusing the Iranian
government of stifling free speech.
Two Iranian women shouted slogans and hung an anti-Khatami banner from
another window, while drumming and shouting by some Iranian exiles could
be heard from a nearby square.
``How can he talk about Goethe and culture, when in Iran they are gouging
out eyes?'' said Farzin Hashemi, an activist for the National Council of
Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the Iraq-based Mujahideen Khalq
armed opposition movement.
``He is misusing culture to open up economic deals,'' Hashemi said,
highlighting Tuesday's deal for a German firm to build a petrochemicals
plant in the oil-rich Middle Eastern state.
Police, seeking to avoid the violence that accompanied a visit by Iran's
Shah in 1967, said they had detained at least 30 Iranians in and around
Weimar for various offences and witnesses said police had scuffled with
protesters several times.
The authorities have taken tough measures for Khatami's visit, turning
back Iranians at the border, ordering others to report to police, searching
the homes of activists suspected of planning violence and making numerous