Athens, Jan 8, IRNA -- Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi arrived here Thursday morning to discuss how to expand Iran's ties with the European Union and Greece, which currently chairs the EU, as well as developments in the Middle East, including the Iraqi crisis.
Kharrazi may also discuss other issues of interest between the two countries during meetings with Greek officials, including Foreign Minister George Papandreou.
Tehran and Athens have forged close political, economic and cultural relations over recent years, which reached a turning point when President Mohammad Khatami visited Greece last March.
The visit was part of a five-day European tour which also took Khatami to Austria.
Five memoranda of understanding were concluded in the course of that visit to promote cooperation between Iran and Greece in the political, economic and cultural areas.
Kharrazi arrived in Athens from Lisbon where he paid a tight-scheduled visit to discuss ties between Iran and Portugal as well as Portuguese investment in the Islamic Republic.
He met President Jorge Sampaio, Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz as well as ministers of economy and culture.
In a meeting with Portuguese investors on Wednesday, Kharrazi outlined the Iranian government's development plans to put the country's economy back into shape.
''We are watching and working with Islamic nations that are moving towards different models of democracy. Our closest ally perhaps in this is Turkey, and a newer one Iran,'' Baroness Nicholson told a seminar "Liberalism in Christianity and Islam" in the European Parliament in Brussels Wednesday.
Speaking on the topic "Reuniting the West and Islam, she said dialogue between Islam and the West has become an absolute priority.
Baroness Nicholson noted noted that 3% of the population in the EU are Muslims, thus making Islam the second-largest religion after Christianity in Europe.
''The Quran is liberal,'' she said quoting a verse from the Holy Quran :'' O mankind, we created you from a single pair of male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other, not that you may despise each other.''
The MEP also quoted in her speech Iranian President Mohammad Khatami that ''Freedom is the essence of growth and development. The path to freedom is risky and tough. I am of the view that thought cannot be contained, that in a free atmosphere opinion would balance each other and logic shall prevail. ''
The 1-day seminar was organized by European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) with the participation of a range of speakers from the world of politics, academia and journalism.
Graham Watson, leader of ELDR, summing up the debate Wednesday evening said relations between the EU and the Muslim countries of the Middle East is ''in movement.''
''The tectonic plates of Christianity and Islam are rubbing against each other, causing a fair amount of friction and a not a few sparks.''
''It is therefore doubly important that we as liberal democrats seek to engage with liberals in Islam and other religions to find a common way forward,'' he stressed.
... Payvand News - 1/9/03 ... --