British MPs want Iran ties on hold over human rights.
By Dominic Evans
LONDON, June 28 (Reuters) - A majority of British members of parliament
have called for London's rapprochement with Tehran to be put on hold until
Iran improves its human rights record, campaigners said on Wednesday.
Speaking just days before a landmark visit to Tehran by Foreign Secretary
Robin Cook, they said 335 parliamentarians had signed a statement calling
for political and trade relations to be conditional on Iran 's full respect
for human rights.
"The statement signed by the 335 MPs says that because there is
no evidence of real change or a willingness to change in Iran , we should
not rush at cosying up to the regime," Labour MP Robin Corbett said.
Corbett unveiled the declaration at a meeting alongside representatives
of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran and a
handful of British MPs and peers who have been vocal critics of the Iranian
Signatories included 204 ruling Labour members and 78 from the main
opposition Conservative Party. Another 53 of the 659 MPs had signed, along
with 61 members of the House of Lords.
The statement said the response to pro-democracy demonstrations in Iran
last summer "shows there has been no improvement in human rights in
"This is a regime which fears its people as well as denying democracy
and respect for human rights," it said.
HOPES FOR CHANGE "A MIRAGE"
Britain has been trying to build on a fragile improvement in ties since
Iran distanced itself from a "fatwa" calling for the death of
British author Salman Rushdie.
Officials say Britain is still concerned over Iran 's human rights record,
its implacable hostility to Israel and fears about its plans to acquire
weapons of mass destruction.
But it has discreetly tried to encourage reformist President Mohammad
Khatami, whose supporters won a sweeping victory over conservatives in
parliamentary elections four months ago.
Wednesday's statement said Khatami's record in office undermined a Western
consensus that the president was pressing Iran 's conservative religious
leadership to reform.
"President Khatami's direct role in the suppression of the pro-democracy
demonstrations prove that hope for democratic change is a mirage,"
the statement added.
"We believe the promotion of economic and diplomatic relations
with Iran should be conditional on full respect for human rights and an
end to the arrest, torture and threatened execution of those who demonstrated
for democracy and freedom."
Cook will fly to Tehran on Tuesday on the first visit by a British foreign
minister since Iran 's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
His visit was postponed from last month because of sensitivities over
Iranian parliamentary elections and the trial in Shiraz of 13 Jews and
eight Moslems charged with spying for Israel. The trial verdict is due
"(Cook) takes the view that it is better to go over there and express
(his) views direct to them. We take the view that it is better that they
demonstrate both a willingness for change and some reality behind the rhetoric,"
Corbett told Reuters.
Cook's visit follows a similar trip to London in January by his Iranian
counterpart Kamal Kharrazi.