Iranian Foreign Minister 'Boycotts Dinner' with Catherine Ashton

Iranian Foreign Minister 'Boycotts Dinner' with Catherine Ashton

Iran’s foreign minister cancelled a dinner with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton over meetings she had with opposition activists, the Fars News Agency reports.

The semi-official Iranian news outlet said that Mohammad Javad Zarif cancelled the scheduled dinner in Vienna in protest at her meeting female activists convicted of rioting following the 2009 presidential election.

The Times of Israel reports that Ashton’s spokesman confirmed that no dinner took place but he declined to say whether it had been cancelled by the Iranians. He simply said that as Ashton and Zarif had met recently so there was little need for them to meet again.

Zarif and Ashton were in Vienna for ongoing talks over Iran’s nuclear programme. The West fears the Islamic Republic could use the programme to create a nuclear weapon, although Tehran has always maintained that its programme is for civil use only.

Ashton has met with several opposition activists in Tehran, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. They had been convicted by the Iranian state after the country was engulfed in days of rioting following the contested re-election of President Mahmood Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Ahmadinejad retired as president last year and was replaced by Hassan Rouhani, who is seen as a more moderate figure.