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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Iranian who quit Oslo embassy post applies for asylum

By Ali Sheikholeslami

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Mohammad-Reza Heydari, the Iranian diplomat in Oslo who resigned to protest his government’s treatment of demonstrators, said he has applied to Norway for political asylum.

“The immigration authorities said today that the process will take two to three months,” Heydari said in a telephone interview from the Norwegian capital.

Heydari, the first Iranian diplomat to publicly resign over the country’s recent crackdown on political dissidents, said two days ago that Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki should also quit to show solidarity with Iran’s citizens. Iran has detained about 1,000 people since clashes last month that left at least eight dead, the toughest action yet against those who allege President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s June 12 re-election was rigged.

Heydari said Jan. 18 that his life would be in danger if he goes back to Iran. He said he and his family still live in their Oslo home and are being protected by Norwegian police.

The Norwegian immigration office declined to comment on whether it had received an application from Heydari, citing applicants’ right to confidentiality, according to spokeswoman Agnieszka Bryn. Norway granted asylum to 118 of the 574 Iranians who applied last year, while 50 were allowed to stay for “other reasons,” according to the immigration office.

Move Not Accepted

Heydari said the Foreign Ministry in Norway told him his name is still on the Iranian Embassy’s list of diplomatic staff. Mottaki said Jan. 18 that Heydari’s resignation hasn’t been accepted and that he should return to his work, according to the state-run Mehr news agency.

“We should be the protectors of the interests of the Iranian people,” Heydari said in a telephone interview Jan. 18. “We should be with them, not against them.”

Ahmadinejad denies allegations that he won the election through vote-rigging. His government accuses Western countries of inciting the post-election demonstrations in Tehran and other cities, and says it has arrested an unspecified number of foreigners.

A spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Oslo declined to comment on Heydari’s asylum application.

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