The hardline daily Kayhan published what it claimed was a partial transcript of the meeting between Mohammad Reza Khatami and German ambassador to Tehran Herbert Honsowitz that touched on the nuclear crisis and Iran's upcoming elections.
Contacts between Iranians and embassies have become an extremely sensitive issue under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, especially after ex-nuclear official Hossein Moussavian was arrested for allegedly handing secrets to the British.
“It was to be expected that in the conversation he (Mohammad Reza Khatami) would have challenged the ambassador of one of the hostile European nations,” said Kayhan in a litany of complaints over the meeting. “It was to be expected that he would not pour his heart out ... to the ally of America and Israel and make unreal comments.”
Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief is appointed by Iran's supreme leader and whose thinking reflects that of top hardliners, did not disclose from where it had obtained the purported transcript of the meeting. In its headline, the paper accused Khatami of expressing “worries about Iran's nuclear victory in a confidential meeting with the German ambassador."
Mohammad Reza Khatami is a former deputy speaker of parliament who was also head of one of the main reformist parties, the Islamic Iran Participation Front. Married to a granddaughter of revolutionary founder Ruhollah Khomeini, he is still a member of the party's executive.
The controversy over the meeting first erupted on Sunday when conservative deputy parliament speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar held a debate with Khatami ahead of Friday's parliamentary elections.
Expressing concern about contacts with “enemies”, Bahonar publicly challenged Khatami to confirm he had met the German ambassador just before the UN Security Council passed a third set of sanctions this month. Khatami confirmed the meeting had taken place and insisted he had told the ambassador that any resolution against Tehran would harm democratic progress in Iran.
“If some friends met with foreign ambassadors and were looking forward to the third resolution... this would be to the disadvantage of Iran,” Bahonar said, according to the ISNA news agency.
Although not a permanent member of the Security Council, Germany was one of
the world powers pushing for tighter sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
The German embassy in Tehran declined to comment.