The Islamic Republic said it had withdrawn its ambassador from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan that hosts the event on Saturday, “in connection with the insulting of religious saints”.
Azerbaijan’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest – a flamboyant annual pageant of pop music from around Europe – has been condemned by some Iranian clerics and MPs who have referred to a “gay parade” – although no such event is planned.
A senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Sobhani, issued a statement urging Muslims in the region to protest what he described as anti-Islamic behaviour by Azerbaijan’s government.
“We heard that the government of Azerbaijan is hosting the international Eurovision Song Contest and that during this contest there will also be a gay parade,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted the cleric as saying.
Iran was angered by subsequent anti-Iranian protests in the Azerbaijan capital Baku, where demonstrators carried pictures of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and banners that read “Azerbaijan does not need clerics – homosexuals!”