Carr: mixed messages on Iran
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Carr: mixed messages on Iran

A SPOKESPERSON for Foreign Minister Bob Carr has defended the federal government’s decision to send delegates to an international summit in Iran amid criticism the move lends legitimacy to the Ahmadinejad regime.

A SPOKESPERSON for Foreign Minister Bob Carr has defended the federal government’s decision to send delegates to an international summit in Iran amid criticism the move lends legitimacy to the Ahmadinejad regime.

Australia’s attendance at the summit comes just a week after Senator Carr announced tougher sanctions on Tehran over its pursuit of nuclear weapons, including trade in oil, petroleum, gas, financial services and precious metals.

While the increased sanctions have been welcomed, Australia’s attendance at the Non-Aligned Movement Summit has attracted criticism from representative Jewish bodies and the federal Opposition, despite assurances from the Foreign Minister’s Office that it will not tolerate any anti-Semitism or incitement. “We are going to the summit because it’s a way to meet members of the Non-Aligned Movement … and we will not be organising talks with Iran while we’re there,” the spokesperson said.

“Furthermore, the Foreign Minister has given a direction that should the Iranians use this forum to make any anti-Semitic comments, as they have done in recent times, that our delegates are to be the first to walk out.”

Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester said if the Australian representatives at the summit publicly and openly walked out in the event Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launches “into one of his usual anti-semitic tirades against Israel”, they will make a strong statement, for which the government should be congratulated.

“Unfortunately, however, it is inevitable that the presence of Australia’s representatives at the summit will be exploited as lending legitimacy to Ahmadinejad and Iran,” he said.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Dr Danny Lamm agreed that it would have been preferable for Australia to have no representation at all at the summit.

“The entire Iranian regime rests on a political ideology that is corrupted to the core with anti-Semitism,” he said.

“[It] does not deserve the kind of legitimacy it will derive from Australia’s presence.”

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein said it was disappointing that Australia had “chosen to undermine the important message it has been communicating consistently to Iran” by sending senior officials to the conference.

“Iran is clearly exploiting this conference to gain unwarranted legitimacy and even less deserved prestige, and every foreign representative sent to the gathering assists Tehran towards this end,” he said.

Shadow foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop accused the government of “compromising longstanding foreign policy principles in pursuit of votes for its campaign for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council”.

“This campaign cannot justify any action that potentially undermines the international effort to convince Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions and its suspected drive to obtain nuclear weapons,” she said.

GARETH NARUNSKY

Foreign minister Bob Carr (Photo: Nathan Smith/AJN file)

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