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Iran Expels 2 W. German Envoys to Protest TV Show

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From Times Wire Services

Iran expelled two West German diplomats to protest a West German television sketch in which a crowd was shown bombarding the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini with women’s underwear, the government said Tuesday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Juergen Chrobog said the Iranian government ordered the expulsion of Cultural Attache Guenter Overfeld and Deputy Ambassador Ruprecht Henatsch. The two were told to leave within 72 hours. West Germany has seven diplomats in Tehran.

Chrobog did not comment in detail on the dispute, which caused concern in Bonn. He said the Foreign Ministry considers the action regrettable.

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‘Mocked Islam’

Iran’s state-owned news agency IRNA said the expulsion was ordered because the West German television program “mocked Islam and the leader of the Iranian revolution, Imam Khomeini.”

The program was aired Sunday night in prime time throughout West Germany.

The 14-second sketch was made to look like a news bulletin. It showed film clips of women customers scrambling at a winter sale in a department store, interspersed with actual news clips of Khomeini at celebrations marking the eighth anniversary of the Iranian revolution. The scene made it look as though the Iranian leader was being showered with gifts of women’s underwear.

Iran’s ambassador to Bonn, Mohammed Djavad Salari, issued a protest Monday, then visited the ministry again Tuesday and delivered another protest to Deputy Foreign Minister Juergen Moellemann.

But sources in Bonn said that Moellemann made it clear to Salari that, while not condoning any disparagement of foreign statesmen, press freedom meant the government had no power to influence TV programs. He also said he had hoped the incident would not harm relations.

Salari said the show was an insult to the Iranian leader and that it “offended the religious feelings of not just the Iranian people but also of Muslims in other countries.”

The controversial segment was broadcast as part of one of West Germany’s most popular satirical comedy programs.

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The show stars and is produced by Rudi Carrell, a Dutch comedian who has lived in West Germany for 23 years.

“The Iranians should be devoting their attentions to the war with Iraq,” Carrell, one of West Germany’s most popular television stars, told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper.

‘Completely Misunderstood’

Bild quoted the program director of the television company which filmed the show as saying he had not believed it would cause so much controversy.

“We regret that a satirical program has been so completely misunderstood,” Guenter Strueve said. “It was not intended to be anti-religious.”

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