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Friday 26th October 2012 | 11:40
European Conservatives and Reformists group press release:
ECR chairman: the European Parliament has been utterly naive on Iran
26th October 2012 -- The European Parliament was right to award Iranian opposition activists Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi the prestigious Sakharov Prize this morning, but it is completely naive to think that sending a delegation of left-wing MEPs there this weekend will not undermine all of the efforts of national governments to force Iran to halt its nuclear weapons programme and improve human rights conditions, Martin Callanan MEP, leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, said today.
Political group leaders, supported by the ECR, decided to award the parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of though to two Iranian opposition activists: Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi.
However, they also agreed to allow a delegation to visit Iran, providing they get to meet the Sakharov winners.
Mr Callanan said:
"The European Parliament is sending completely mixed messages to the Iranian regime. On the one hand we are demanding a cessation of its nuclear programme, on the other we are sending left-wing MEPs to hand the regime a propaganda coup. It is completely naive to think that this delegation will have any positive influence on human rights or Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"I firmly believe in talking to countries with whom we have disagreements but when it comes to Iran, experience has shown that our hand of friendship is abused for the regime's own propaganda purposes. This delegation will only strengthen Iran's hand.
"I am delighted that Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi have been awarded the Sakharov Prize. They are a reminder to us that there are a number of incredibly brave people in Iran who are fighting for their freedom. They
deserved this prize and I hope they will be able to come to Strasbourg to receive it.
"Iran is a threat not just to Europe but to our allies in Israel. A nuclear Iran is the nightmare scenario for Israel, for Europe, and for the Middle East which could be plunged into an arms race. We must take whatever action necessary to prevent a nuclear Iran and to avoid any impression that we do not stand united and steadfast in our
determination to prevent that scenario from occurring. The parliament has undermined the council's tough stance."