TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) -Iran has expelled a German diplomat for “undiplomatic” behavior, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday in the wake of a report that Germany had expelled an Iranian consular attache last July.
“Responsible authorities recognized that this person was engaging in undiplomatic behavior and has to leave Iran,” ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters during his weekly briefing, without revealing the diplomat’s name or giving any additional information.
A German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said late Saturday that she could only “confirm that a German diplomat has left Iran,” but declined to elaborate.
The German weekly Der Spiegel, citing no sources, reported last month that an Iranian consular attache had been expelled last July. The diplomat, identified only as Mohraramali D., had contacted a specialist firm in Bavaria, apparently in hopes of buying a component that could be used in the uranium enrichment process, Der Spiegel reported.
The Foreign Ministry in Berlin refused to confirm the report at the time and declined to do so again Saturday. Iran has declined to comment on the report.
Germany is one of the countries negotiating with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program, which the U.S. and others fear intends to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
The relationship between Germany and Iran has been strained at times since Iran’s 1979 revolution.
The two were once major trading partners but relations were frozen after a German court ruled in 1997 that the 1992 shooting deaths of four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin had been ordered at the highest levels in Tehran. Two men convicted of the 1992 killings were released from prison in Germany last month.
The case of Helmut Hofer, a German businessman twice sentenced to death in Iran for a relationship with a 26-year-old Iranian medical student, further strained ties. Hofer was eventually acquitted and released from prison in Iran in 2000.
Relations significantly improved after a visit to Germany by reformist former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami in 2000. But ties were strained once again in 2004 with the unveiling of a plaque in Berlin commemorating the 1992 killings of the four dissidents and holding Iran to blame.
In response, Iranian war veterans unveiled a plaque outside the German Embassy in Tehran accusing Germany of supplying chemical weapons to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.