HC Deb 03 March 2000 vol 345 cc439-40W
Mr. Dismore

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the death sentences imposed on three Iranian Batá'ís in the city of Mashad on 3 February; and what representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the Iranian Ambassador about them. [113014]

Mr. Hain

We remain concerned at reports of the death sentences passed on Mr. Najafabadi, Mr. Moghaddam and Mr. Khulusi in Mashad on 3 February. The picture has been somewhat confused by the recent statement by Mr. Sabeqi, spokesman for the Iranian Judiciary, that no such sentences had been passed. The Portuguese Presidency, on behalf of EU partners, presented a demarche to the Iranian authorities expressing our concern and seeking clarification as to the current status of these three gentlemen on 17 February. We took similar bilateral action with the Iranian Ambassador on 21 February.

We regularly raise with the Iranian authorities our serious concern about treatment of the Bahá'ís. Persecution of individuals on religious grounds is totally unacceptable.

Mr. Temple-Morris

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received concerning the claims by the Iranian exile group, the National Council of Resistance, about the turnout for the recent Iranian Majles elections and falsification of results. [113069]

Mr. Hain

I was aware of this attempt by the National Council for the Resistance of Iran (NCRI) to dismiss as a fraud the conduct and outcome of the recent Iranian elections. Their claims are not credible. The political choice made in the elections by the Iranian people is a matter for them, but our view, and that of all impartial observers, is that the election result in Iran has been a substantial vote of confidence in President Khatami's political and economic reforms, and a clear signal of the Iranian people's interest in modernisation.

For us, that is also a vindication of the policy of engagement with Iran pursued by this Government. That policy has attracted some criticism in the past, sometimes from the people who have accepted at face value the propaganda of the NCRI, which is an organisation dominated by the terrorist Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO). The MKO are based in Baghdad and are regarded by Saddam Hussein as some of his most trusted allies. They are despised by most Iranians within Iran for their support for Saddam during the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s. They have been responsible for a series of terrorist attacks in Iran which we have condemned.

In our dealings with the Iranian Government we and our EU partners have regularly expressed our concern over a number of issues, particularly human rights, and we will continue to do so until those legitimate concerns are dealt with to our satisfaction. But in assessing those concerns, and the progress of events in Iran generally, we will pay little attention to the views of the MKO or NCRI, whose own background and methods do not permit them to speak with authority on democracy or human rights.

The outcome of the elections strengthens our optimism for the future of Iran, and for Britain's developing relationship with Iran.

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