Diplomatic Hand Extended: Furor May Erupt if Shaken
New York Times / Robert F. Worth

SANA, Yemen — Iran angrily denied reports on Thursday that its tourism minister shook hands with his Israeli counterpart at a reception in Spain, which would have violated Iran’s strict anti-Israeli policies.

An adviser to Stas Misezhnikov, the Israeli tourism minister, said the two ministers shook hands at a reception on Wednesday hosted by the king and queen of Spain. Only ministers and ambassadors were present at the meeting, said the adviser, Amnon Liebermann.

The Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, which serves as Iran’s tourism ministry, issued a statement on Thursday dismissing that claim as an “ugly and false rumor,” adding that Iranian officials “never encountered Israeli officials in any form.” The statement added that Iran considered “the permanent struggle against this international pariah its divine duty.”

The Iranian denial was reported by at least two of Iran’s semiofficial news agencies. In the statement, the tourism ministry also accused the BBC of helping to spread the report of the handshake, and it threatened legal action against any newspaper that repeated it.

The report was first published Wednesday on Ynet, the Web site of the popular Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, which also said that the Iranian minister had invited Mr. Misezhnikov to visit the Iranian cities of Shiraz and Isfahan.

Iran broke ties with Israel after the 1979 revolution, and vitriolic attacks on Israel a... >>>

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