Iran recalled its ambassador from the Republic of Azerbaijan

14:38 - 23 May 2012
Krdpa: Iran has recalled “Mohammad Baqer Bahrami”, the Iranian ambassador to Republic of Azerbaijan on Monday, May 22 after accusing its neighbour of planning the Eurovision song contest.

Azerbaijan\'s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest – a flamboyant annual pageant of pop music from around Europe – has been condemned by some Iranian clerics and MPs who have referred to a \"gay parade\" – although no such event is planned.

A senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Sobhani, issued a statement urging Muslims in the region to protest what he described as anti-Islamic behaviour by Azerbaijan\'s government.

\"We heard that the government of Azerbaijan is hosting the international Eurovision Song Contest and that during this contest there will also be a gay parade,\" the semi-official Fars news agency quoted the cleric as saying.

Iran was angered by subsequent anti-Iranian protests in the Azerbaijan capital Baku, where demonstrators carried pictures of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and banners that read \"Azerbaijan does not need clerics – homosexuals!\"

Ali Hasanov, head of the public and political issues department in Azeri President Ilham Aliyev\'s administration, said: \"I do not know who got this idea into their heads in Iran. We are hosting a song contest, not a gay parade.\"

The song contest has cast a spotlight on Azerbaijan\'s human rights record and exposed tension over religion. Azeri officials in private blame Iran for Islam\'s growing influence in the officially secular country.

The latest spat between the countries that share a religion but have sharply different political systems is part of wider diplomatic tensions.

Iran has accused Azerbaijan of assisting Israel in what it says was the Jewish state\'s assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Azerbaijan, for its part, arrested dozens of people this year on suspicion of links with Iran\'s Revolutionary Guards and of plotting attacks on targets that included the Israeli ambassador.
Azerbaijan won the right to host the contest by winning last year\'s event in Germany, and sees the annual event watched by millions of television viewers as a chance to showcase the country.

The finalists, including Engelbert Humperdinck representing Britain, will perform in the capital\'s newly built Crystal Hall.

Source: The Telegraph