Iran: We May Cut Ties With Germany

By AFSHIN VALINEJAD
April 16, 1997

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's supreme leader warned Wednesday that Germany will pay for a court ruling that blames Iranian leaders for 1992 murders of dissidents. He said Tehran is not afraid to cut ties with Germany.

But despite the tough talk, Iran and European nations seem to be trying to avoid escalating the crisis in order to protect business interests. Germany is Iran's top European trading partner.

`The Germans have lost something major: the trust of the Iranian people,'' Tehran television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying. ``Bonn should know that Iran is not even afraid of severing ties with Germany.''

``The German government is responsible for this charade and must pay a high price for it,'' he said. Khamenei did not elaborate on how Germany might be punished.

All European Union countries except Greece recalled their ambassadors after the German court issued its ruling Thursday. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Finland also have called home their envoys.

Iran has threatened to cancel trade agreements with some countries, including New Zealand. Iran imports $120 million in meat, dairy products, fish and wool from New Zealand every year.

Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, said Wednesday that it may not order its ambassador to Iran to return there after he finishes a visit to the United States. The ambassador, Rudolf Weiersmueller, represents Washington's interests in the Islamic Republic.

Also Wednesday, 6,000 disabled war veterans gathered outside the German Embassy in Tehran in the latest of almost daily protests since the Berlin court blamed Iranian leaders for the 1992 killings of political dissidents.

Some walked, others pushed themselves in wheelchairs or hobbled on crutches. Dozens were pushed to the site in wheeled hospital beds, some equipped with oxygen tanks. About 300 riot police stood in rows three deep in front of the embassy.

Iran has accused Germany of supplying chemical weapons to Iraq and has encouraged veterans disabled in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war to sue German companies.