Germany Says Iran Meeting Necessary to Free Journalists

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office on Monday addressed criticism of her foreign minister’s decision to meet the Iranian president over the weekend, saying that it was the price to pay for the release of two German journalists and that it did not change Germany’s criticisms of the Iranian government.

“In that kind of a situation it is always a question of weighing the pros and cons,” said Steffen Seibert, the chancellor’s spokesman. “We are still absolutely clear about the fact that the situation in Iran concerning human rights and political freedoms is unacceptably bad.”

Iran has faced sanctions and political isolation by the United States and European nations because of its nuclear program and its crackdown on political opponents.

The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, traveled to Tehran on Saturday to bring home two journalists for the newspaper Bild am Sonntag who were released after being arrested in October, when they were trying to interview family members of a woman who had been sentenced to death by stoning on adultery charges.

German Foreign Ministry officials said that after weeks of negotiations, the Iranians reached out last week to discuss the release of the pair, the reporter Marcus Hellwig and the photographer Jens Koch. A condition of their release was that Mr. Westerwelle meet with Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


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