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Western powers ‘must change focus on Iran’

Berlin, June 12, 2010

The international community must focus more on Iran's human rights abuses rather than its nuclear programme if it wants to weaken President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at home, a German-Iranian lawmaker said.

Omid Nouripour, a member of parliament for the opposition Greens, said there was no question Iran's nuclear programme represented a "huge threat" to global security but the most effective way to undermine Ahmadinejad and bolster his opponents was to concentrate on abuses committed by his administration.

The row over Iran's uranium enrichment, which it says is for the peaceful generation of power, enables Ahmadinejad to project an image of strength internationally and distract attention from the government's internal weakness, Nouripour said.

"This is the main problem in the whole debate. Iran is too often treated as a really strong country. But it's not: Iran's an incredibly weak country, but we don't understand it," he told Reuters in an interview. "The economy is on its knees."

"The issue of human rights is inseparable from the nuclear question. You can see how the Iranian government tailors its rhetoric on the nuclear issue to a major degree towards what's going on inside the country," he added.

"The key thing to understand is this government is weak, but we need to look at what's happening inside the country.”

This week the United Nations Security Council passed a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. Western powers suspects Iran wants to build atomic weapons.

"We need to protest individual cases and keep on about them.

In the last few weeks alone, many people have been executed in Iran. But very few people know that because very little attention is paid to the provinces," Nouripour, who came to Germany in 1988 from Iran aged 13, said.

In the past, Tehran had made its most conciliatory gestures towards the international community on the nuclear issue prior to mass demonstrations against the Iranian government, only to renege on them later, Nouripour added.

The nuclear row has often overshadowed the crimes of the Iranian government, which -- despite restrictions on the press -- are visible to those who look, he said.

"There are enough reports out there. It's just a question of taking a proper look. And it's worth it. This isn't just any old country we're talking about: it's the one the international community is most worried by and which threatens Israel most."

The lawmaker, who last visited Iran in 2008, added there was "massive disappointment" among his contacts in the country that Iranian opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi had called off rallies planned for Saturday.

Nouripour said he had been told that up to two million security personnel and militia had been sent to the capital to crack down on any protests this weekend. – Reuters




Tags: Iran | Berlin | Nuclear | Ahmadinejad | Human rights | Western |

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