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Confusion over reported protest by German MPs over Khatami visit

July 5, 2000, Berlin (dpa) - There was confusion Wednesday over a petition reportedly signed by members of the German parliament protesting next week's visit to Germany by Iranian President Mohammed Khatami.

At a news briefing organised by the National Resistance Council of Iran - which is dominated by the Iraqi-based People's Mujahedin - a member of Germany's parliament, Arne Fuhrmann, said the protest had been signed by 175 members of the Bundestag, the German lower house.

But the list of signatories was not presented at the news briefing. A spokeswoman for Fuhrmann - who is a member of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats - later said the petition was being organised by the National Resistance Council.

However, the National Resistance Council was also unable to provide any list of parliamentary signatories. ``This is still being worked on,'' said a spokeswoman, adding: ``This list at this very moment does not exist.''

If such a large number of deputies did sign the protest it would be a substantial criticism: the Bundestag has a total of 669 members.

The National Resistance Council has vowed to bring 25,000 protesters to Berlin for the visit, and the city is gearing up for a massive security operation flanking the two-day Khatami visit which starts on Monday.

Khatami will meet with Schroeder, President Johannes Rau, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. He will also make a speech to German industrialists.

``For us the visit is a chance to strengthen reform forces in Iran ,'' said Schroeder's spokesman, Uwe-Karsten Heye.

Criticism of the visit came from the leader of Berlin's Jewish community, Andreas Nachama, who said the invitation gave Khatami an unnecessary upgrading of Teheran status.

``This makes presentable a regime which one really cannot say has become any better,'' said Nachama in a Hundert 6 radio interview.


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