3 March 2010

Asylum case creates a diplomatic crisis between Norway and Iran

From Dagbladet

DIANA BADIA, dba@dagbladet.no

(Dagbladet): Norway's granting of political asylum to the former Iranian top diplomat Mohammed Reza Heydari has led to a diplomatic crisis.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian ambassador in Tehran was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry in late February.

Here Ambassador Roald Næss was handed a letter in which Iran protested against Norway’s granting of asylum to Heydari.

The Iranian foreign ministry also required that a Norwegian diplomat should leave Iran.

This aroused strong reactions in Norway.

- It is a completely unacceptable response from the Iranian side. The right to seek asylum is pursuant to international conventions, said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre in the press release.

- Heydari’s asylum application was considered on an individual basis, and the relevant immigration authorities have decided that he satisfies the conditions for asylum in Norway

Leaving Tehran
The Foreign Ministry dismissed the protests and demanded in return that an Iranian diplomat should leave Norway.

- We do not want to identify the Norwegian or the Iranian diplomat, said Communications Advicer Kjetil Elsebutangen to Dagbladet and elaborated:

- Iranian authorities have made it very clear that their reaction is a reaction against the Norwegian government and not against individuals. This is also the case for the Norwegian authorities.

According to Elsebutangen the Norwegian diplomat will comply with the requirement and leave the country.

- It is not appropriate that he continues his work at the Norwegian Embassy in Iran. But it is important to emphasize that he is thus not "persona non grata" in Iran (unwanted person jour. Note).

Heydari worked as a consul at the Iranian Embassy in Norway until the beginning of the year when he chose to terminate his position in protest against the human rights violations and the oppression in his country.

In an interview with Dagbladet the diplomat said that the Iranian authorities had refused to accept his resignation.

According to his account, they tried both to threaten and lure him into withdrawing his resignation and his regime-critical statements about the government in Iran.

He feared for his life if he returned to Iran and decided to seek political asylum in Norway.

The asylum application was granted in mid-February.

- We asked for and received a very quick processing by the UDI. We are very, very happy, said a spokesman for the Norwegian-Iranian Support Committee, Saki Rahman to Dagbladet when the decision was announced.

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