Iran summons Dutch envoy over Koran film

Sun Mar 30, 2008 11:55am EDT

By Fredrik Dahl

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch ambassador on Sunday in protest at an “insulting and anti-Islamic” film by a Dutch lawmaker that accuses the Koran of inciting violence, state media said.

A senior diplomat from Slovenia, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, was also called to the ministry in Tehran over the film by Geert Wilders. The Netherlands is a member of the 27-nation bloc.

Wilders’ video, which urges Muslims to tear out “hate-filled” verses from the Koran, has outraged Muslim nations in a similar way to a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb under his turban published in a Danish newspaper in 2005.

“Following the propagation of the insulting and anti-Islamic film by the radical Dutch parliamentarian, the Dutch ambassador and the Slovenian charge d’affaires were summoned to the Foreign Ministry,” Iranian state radio said.

It said the Dutch envoy, Radinck van Vollenhoven, had expressed regret over the making of the film but this was denied by the Dutch Foreign Ministry.

“No regrets were expressed. The ambassador has outlined the opinion of the Dutch government as expressed by the prime minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, distancing itself from the film,” a ministry spokesman said.

“The meeting was held on the initiative of the Dutch government who had asked for the meeting on Friday.”

Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Freedom Party, launched his short video on the Internet on Thursday.

Iran has called the film heinous and blasphemous. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation and a former Dutch colony, said it was an “insult to Islam, hidden under the cover of freedom of expression”.

DEATH THREATS

The film “Fitna” — an Arabic term sometimes translated as “strife” — intersperses images of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and Islamist bombings with quotations from the Koran, Islam’s holy book.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has said the government believed the film “serves no purpose other than to cause offence. But feeling offended should never be used as an excuse for aggression and threats”.

The ministry spokesman said: “It was Wilders’ right to express his opinion. The public prosecutor is now looking into whether his film was within Dutch law.”

EU foreign ministers condemned the film on Saturday but said its author had a right to make it under the bloc’s free speech principles.

“The film equates Islam with violence and this view is sharply rejected,” the 27 ministers said in a statement after a meeting in Slovenia.

Also on Saturday, British-based LiveLeak.com, the first Web site to post the Wilders film, said it had removed the film after threats to its staff “of a very serious nature.”

Denmark was hit in 2006 by boycotts and international protests over the Prophet cartoons.

(Reporting by Hashem Kalantari and Fredrik Dahl; Additional reporting by Harro ten Wolde; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Robert Woodward)

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