09 March 2004

Iranian Chief Justice in India for key talks

9 March 2004
The Times of India

Iranian Chief Justice in India for key talks


NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Vajpayee on Wednesday will play host to a top Iranian cleric and leading critic of Washington on the nuclear issue, highlighting the tightrope walk India is engaging in.

The US has stepped up its pressure on Tehran for its alleged transgressions of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT).

Indeed, at roughly the same time Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, chief justice of Iran, starts his parleys with the Indian leadership, the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency will be considering a US resolution which Washington hopes may eventually serve as the trigger for international sanctions against Iran.

Shahroudi, whose influence extends far beyond what his formal title suggests, has in the past called on Tehran to ‘‘resist’’ Washington’s pressure on the nuclear front.

Last August, he hailed a letter written by 500 students of the Technical Sharif University to President Khatami calling on Iran to pull out from the NPT.

Appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, Shahroudi is visiting India at the invitation of the government. Iranian officials say that apart from Vajpayee, the visiting cleric is also slated to meet President Kalam and external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha.

Allied to the ‘conservative’ camp in Iranian politics, Shahroudi last month warned ‘reformers’ close to President Khatami not to do anything to disrupt the elections to Iran’s parliament. The reformers had complained about their candidates being unfailrly disqualified.

In a meeting with the Indian ambassador in Tehran in 2002, Shahroudi called for Iran and India to forge strategic ties against the US, which he said was eyeing the region’s energy resources. Describing the US attack on Afghanistan after 9/11 as ‘‘an act of terrorism’’, Shahroudi said Washington was looking to expand its ‘‘domination of the region’’.

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