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Swiss FM Defends Iran Visit

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey told a conference in Lucerne on Wednesday that her visit to Iran in March was a model of diplomacy and business working hand in hand. She maintained that the resulting agreement ensured a long-term Swiss presence in an important region.

The gas deal which was signed in Calmy-Rey's presence between the National Iranian Gas Export Company and the Swiss EGL power company, brought furious responses from Israel and the United States.

The US said it sent "the wrong message" to Iran, while Israel called her visit an "unfriendly" act.

Calmy-Rey said in her speech that the short-term annoyance of Switzerland's partners had to be taken into account, but that the foreign ministry network had an important role to play in supporting Swiss economic interests abroad.

The Swiss foreign minister has also dismissed Washington and Tel Aviv's strong protest against the deal, reiterating her country's independence in dealing with other countries. Calmy-Ray also stressed that her country would never allow others to intrude in its affairs.

Fars News Agency, May 15, 2008

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