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Cablegate: New Iranian Ambassador Presents Credentials to the Pope

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P 041130Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1178
INFO IRAN COLLECTIVE
UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY VATICAN

UNCLAS VATICAN 000110


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PARM IR IS VT
SUBJECT: NEW IRANIAN AMBASSADOR PRESENTS CREDENTIALS TO THE POPE

1. (U) On October 29, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the
credentials of Mr. Ali Akbar Naseri as the new Ambassador of
Iran to the Holy See. As is customary, the Pope and the
ambassador presenting credentials exchanged remarks (in writing)
highlighting their respective priorities for the relation. As
reported in the Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official
newspaper, the Pope stressed the need to observe international
law and freedom of religion. He also emphasized the importance
of good relations between peoples of different religions and
advocated respect for the free movement of religious workers
across national borders. The Pope also expressed concern for
the rights of Catholics in Iran.

2. (U) Ambassador Naseri's remarks addressed Iran's nuclear
ambitions and criticized what he claimed are the unequal
standards to which Iran's nuclear program is subject. He stated
Iran is a democracy that should be allowed to pursue a peaceful
nuclear program and complained that Iran's legitimate ambitions
have repeatedly been blocked while those of other nations have
been fully supported. He also alleged that Islamophobia is
prevalent in the West and stated that Iran supports peaceful
interreligious dialogue.

3. (SBU) Comment: Iran has five diplomats accredited to the
Holy See, a fairly large number for a Muslim-majority country
hosting a very small Catholic population (about 25,000). Iran,
however, seems to value its diplomatic ties with the Vatican
because the Holy See is only an observer in the UN and could
therefore play an intermediary role in a hypothetical Iran-UN
faceoff. Iran also appreciates that the Holy See is a firm
believer in diplomacy and opposes the use of force except as a
last resort to avoid an even greater evil - a rare occurrence
from the Vatican's perspective. The Vatican finds the Iranian
hierarchical religious leadership a suitable counterpart for
advancing religious dialogue with Shia Muslims. It is not,
however, naove about Iranian pernicious influence in Lebanon and
elsewhere in the region, laments the precarious situation of
Christians in Iran, and wishes Tehran would be more cooperative
in addressing the international community's concerns about its
nuclear program. End comment.

DIAZ

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