CAIRO, April 13 (AFP) - Iran sought Arab support on Sunday in its confrontation with the European Union, saying the crisis concerned the whole Middle East region.
The head of the Iranian interests section in Cairo, Akbar Qassemi, met Arab League chief Esmat Abdel Meguid to brief him on "the decision by EU countries to recall their ambassadors from Tehran as well as the dangers and challenges facing all countries in the region, be they Iran or Arab countries," a League official said.
Qassemi requested the meeting, the first visit by an Iranian official to Arab League headquarters since 1992 when Tehran became embroiled in a territorial dispute with League member the United Arab Emirates, the official said.
After the meeting, Qassemi refused to comment on the Iranian-EU rift which followed a German court's accusations that Iranian leaders ordered the 1992 murder of Kurdish dissidents in Berlin.
TEHRAN, April 13 (AFP) - Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati on Sunday described as "symbolic" the measures taken against his country by the European Union, predicting that the diplomatic crisis would not last long.
"Although they take symbolic steps in solidarity (with Germany), they will not continue along this road to the end," Velayati told Iranian reporters after attending a closed-door session of parliament to discuss reviewing ties with Germany.
Relations sharply deteriorated between Tehran and the European Union on Thursday after a German court issued a verdict accusing Iranian leaders of ordering the murder of four Kurd dissidents in a Berlin restaurant in 1992.
Tehran and Bonn reacted by recalling their ambassadors and each ordering out four diplomats.
EU nations except Greece decided to back Germany by recalling their own ambassadors from Tehran.
They also decided to suspend the "critical dialogue" started in 1992 in the hope of exerting a positive influence on Iran, rather than respond to the American calls to isolate the Islamic republic.
Velayati's hopes that the diplomatic crisis with the EU would be brief was the first conciliatory sign from Iran since Thursday.
He also warned, however, that any "reduction in diplomatic links with Iran would be recorded in the memory of our people and government files."
"We will take this into account as we plan for our future relations with other countries," he said, quoted by state television.
The Iranian parliament called Sunday for a total revision of economic and political relations with Germany as the crisis between the two countries deepened.
Deputy speaker Hassan Ruhani said parliament would call on the government to cancel "all investment and purchase of (German) equipment" by Tehran in reaction to the German court's ruling.
He also said Iran "does not want" the so-called "critical dialogue" with the European Union because of the decision by most EU countries to recall their ambassadors.
"The decision by the EU to recall its ambassador was political posturing, but we will strongly react to it," Ruhani told parliament.
"We will closely watch any developments from the other side and take appropriate decisions based on the attitude of individual EU members," he said.
Germany, Iran's top trading partner and, until now, a staunch supporter of dialogue with the Islamic republic, refused to react Sunday to Iran's call for a total revision of economic and political relations.
German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel called earlier for a review of EU relations with Iran, but stopped short of urging a break in ties.
Iran said Saturday it was considering a recall of its ambassadors from EU countries.
Beyond Europe, Iran has also started to punish other countries who have recalled their ambassadors from Tehran.
Ruhani said it had cancelled a visit here by an Australian economic delegation, while meat, butter and wool imports
from New Zealand have been suspended.
The decision to freeze trade agreements with New Zealand has puzzled New Zealand officials who said Sunday there were no current contracts between the two countries.
The English-language daily Iran News, known for its moderate views, urged self-restraint on Sunday so as not to let the United State to "fuel the fire of Iran-EU crisis."
"We understand that the feeling of our people is offended by the verdict, but let's our protests be voiced in a civilized manner."
"Under the circumstances it is best to exercize restraint as the sky will soon clear up. And remember that Germany said a big 'NO' to the US offer for economic sanctions against Iran."
AUCKLAND, April 13, (AFP) - An Iranian decision to freeze trade agreements with New Zealand has puzzled New Zealand officials who said Sunday there were no current contracts between the two countries.
International Trade Minister, Lockwood Smith, said New Zealand had not been officially informed of a ban but the reports would be investigated by embassy staff in Teheran.
Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted a government spokesman Saturday as saying agreements to buy New Zealand butter, meat and wool have been frozen.
The action was taken in protest at New Zealand joining Australia, Canada and 14 European countries in recalling their ambassadors after a German court accused Iran of involvement in the assassination of four Kurds in Berlin in 1992.
But John Hayes, the head of the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Department's Middle East and African division, said New Zealand had had no trade contracts with Iran in the past two months.
While the two nations have traded for the past 25 years, figures showed New Zealand exports to Iran have fallen recently, although Hayes said that did not mean the trading partnership was about to cease.
Iran has a stockpile of New Zealand butter at present, he said.
Smith said New Zealand had always resisted pressure to join trade sanctions against Iran.
"New Zealand and Iran have a very long-standing trade relationship and I would be very disappointed if Iran were to impose economic sanctions against us," the minister said.
"Successive New Zealand governments have thought it inappropriate to damage the interests of private companies in both countries. We did not believe in withholding food from the Iranian population."
New Zealand exports to Iran last year totalled NZ169 million dollars (US 117 million dollars).
TEHRAN, April 13 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of Iranians demonstrated outside the German embassy here Sunday, burning German flags to protest a Berlin court ruling implicating Iranian leaders in terrorism on German soil.
The protesters, who included many schoolchildren, marched on the embassy in central Tehran from a mosque in Tehran University.
However, the crowd was too big to fit into the area around the mission, which was tightly guarded by Iranian security forces.
The authorities also closed the roads leading to the embassy, causing big traffic snarl-ups.
Demonstrators carried large portraits of Iran's paramount leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his predecessor, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as well as placards denouncing Germany, Israel and the United States.
They set fire to Israeli and US flags after accusing the two countries of orchestrating the ruling by the Berlin court, which they described as a "Zionist plot."
They also for the first time here burned German flags, amid shouts of "Down with Germany" and with "Down with Naziism."
The German court on Thursday directly implicated Iranian leaders in the 1992 murders of four Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant.
In a speech to the demonstrators, MP Reza Akrami, a clergyman, blasted the German judiciary for its "offense against the highest Iranian officials and people."
"It will be difficult for Germany to rebuild its image and position in Iran," he warned, demanding that the German judiciary and government apologize.
Many political and religious organisations urged the public
to turn out en masse for the rally, the second to be held here against Germany since the court ruling was issued.
Demonstrations are also being held in other Iranian cities.
Among the demonstrators on Sunday were families of the victims of chemical attacks during the 1980-1988 war against Iraq, Iran's official news agency IRNA said.
Iranian authorities have encouraged families of such attacks to sue German firms who allegedly supplied Iraq with chemical weapon technology in apparent retaliation for the Berlin court's accusations.
The justice department said last week that 24 German companies as well as "certain" officials were concerned in the case and they would be summoned to appear in a court here soon.
IRNA said the protesters had urged the government to pressure Bonn to turn over the Germans accused of providing chemical assistance to Baghdad.
Germany says some pharmaceutical firms had provided Iraq in the 1980s with assistance for agricultual purposes, but that factories were later modified to produce chemical weapons.
A group of other people at Sunday's march were protesting Germany's granting of political asylum to supporters of Iranian armed opposition groups, IRNA said.
They were relatives of the victims of terrorist attacks by rebels, demanding that Bonn extradite the "criminals," it said.
Iranian leaders have repeatedly criticized Western countries for sheltering supporters of rebels groups, notably the main armed dissident group the People's Mujahedeen.
WASHINGTON, April 13 (AFP) - US and Saudi authorities believe a senior Iranian intelligence officer is linked to the Saudi national arrested in Canada for the fatal bombing of a US military complex in Saudi Arabia, the Washington Post said on Sunday.
Brigadier Ahmad Sherifi, a top official in Iran's Revolutionary Guards, met with Hani Abd Rahim al-Sayegh about two years before a truck bomb killed 19 US airmen at the Khobar Towers housing complex, the daily said.
Al-Sayegh, 28, was arrested in Ottawa March 18. A Canadian court documents identify him as the driver of the truck and a member of the Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed group of militant Shiite Muslims.
Al-Sayegh fled Saudi Arabia shortly after the bombing last June 25.
The evidence of Iranian links to the Saudis suspected in the Khobar Towers blast includes bank cheques signed by Sherifi, the paper said, without identifying the recipients.
Last week, a German court ruled Iran's top leaders had ordered the 1992 execution in a Berlin restaurant of three Iranian Kurdish dissidents and their translator, a decision that spurred most Western European nations to recall their ambassadors from Tehran.