Sunday, 11 May 2008

Iran stars anti-nuclear rally

Iran was the guest of honour in a French anti-nuclear meeting this weekend… No one was really interested except the Israeli press which mentioned the incident, reported by the Iranian news agency IRNA.

The Iranian ambassador Ali Ahani – also known as the only official in Paris who ignores Israeli journalists at press conferences - was invited to deliver a speech at the third ‘International rally for nuclear, chemical and biological disarmament’.

Addressing the local audience, Ahani said “Iran was the biggest victim of weapons of mass destruction” during its conflict with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and accused Israel of being “a major threat to world peace”. He denounced France, Britain, the US, Russia and Germany for trying to halt Tehran’s nuclear program. Two other Iranian diplomats participated in the event, along with a Cuban and two Vietnamese embassy advisers.

The event was in fact organised by an anti-nuclear association, Citizen action for nuclear dismantling, in the western town of Saintes, and not in Paris, as reported in the Israeli press. This detail is quite significant, since the town’s relative isolation explains how the Iranian diplomat turned out to be the star of the show.

The organisers flooded the capital’s embassies with invitations. But as expected, no serious official could take the time and travel to Saintes for a militant conference. No official except the Iranian ambassador and his colleagues who figured this could be a good opportunity for some PR activity.

The organisers, who present their meeting as “international”, were relieved and proud to host an ambassador and perhaps didn’t fully seize the controversial and ironic character of their ‘pacifist’ rally.

“World leaders meet in big capitals. We, the militants, gather in our home towns!” the association wrote on its internet site.
“Saintes may only have 30.000 inhabitants, but we don’t need to be millions to know what billions want: peace, justice and life!”
The French media did not cover or even mention the event, but the Iranian news agency turned it into an important conference.
The same day (Saturday), the French Parliament hosted a meeting on nuclear disarmament - but no Iranian official had been invited.

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