Berlin: Germany`s Foreign Minister held a
rare meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in
Tehran in what appeared to have been a complicated deal to
obtain the release of two journalists detained for four
months, officials said on Sunday.
Leading Iranian exile opposition representatives
called Guido Westerwelle`s visit a "disgrace," saying Germany
was bowing to the regime and it could deal a blow to popular
protests gathering new steam amid the turmoil in the Middle
But the foreign ministry stressed the visit`s aim was
solely to obtain the release of the two German journalists who
had been detained in connection with a highly publicised
"The minister`s trip only served a humanitarian
purpose," a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Westerwelle spoke "clearly about human rights and
democracy" in his meetings with his counterpart, Ali Akbar
Salehi, and Iran`s president, the spokesman said. He declined
to be named in line with policy.
"This is a simply a disgrace," said Kazem Moussavi, a
spokesman for the Green Party of Iran in Germany. He added
Westerwelle`s visit came as a blow in the face of those
currently taking to the streets in Iran hoping to oust
"His meeting ignored the ruling regime`s terror, the
people`s suffering," he said, warning the president could now
use Westerwelle`s visit for his propaganda.
A Paris-based spokesman for the National Council of
Resistance of Iran said Westerwelle`s visit at a time when the
president faces popular unrest will "only embolden the regime
to further suppress Iranian people."
"This trip is nothing but pinning hope on the bankrupt
and utterly failed policy of appeasement and submitting to
mullahs` blackmail," Shahin Gobadi said.
However, the rare top-level visit by a Western
government representative in Tehran secured the release of the
two German reporters.
Westerwelle described the months-long negotiations as
"very complicated," but the minister was ultimately able to
take the pair home on his government plane last night after
their 132-day-long ordeal in Iranian detention.
A German government official said reporter Marcus
Hellwig and photographer Jens Koch had been detained under
"poor conditions," and both had suffered great psychological
wounds. He spoke on condition of anonymity citing the
confidentiality of the information.
The reporters, working for the Berlin-based
mass-circulation tabloid Bild am Sonntag, were detained in
October after interviewing the son of an Iranian woman
sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, Sakineh Mohammadi
Ashtiani, whose case has generated widespread international