No beer - no lunch

Belgian, Iranian officials can't agree on alcohol with meal

July 1, 2005 - A lunch meeting between a leading parliamentarian in Belgium and counterparts from Iran was canceled because the beer-loving Belgian didn't care for a ban on alcohol.


Instead they met for one hour of talks without a meal.

"Even for the tolerant Herman De Croo, that was a bridge too far," De Croo was quoted in De Standaard. De Croo, president of parliament's lower house, had been due to entertain the speaker and members of the Iranian parliament during their visit to Belgium - famous for its diversity of beer styles.

He said lunch had been canceled because the Iranians, who as Muslims do not drink alcohol, wanted their hosts to do the same. "I did not receive such demands in writing. But ... I was indirectly asked not to serve alcohol," said De Croo.

A spokesman for parliament said that the Iranians would not have been expected to join their Belgian hosts in drinking or toasting.

"Guests are not obliged to have alcohol, but we didn't want to bow to outside rules," the spokesman said, adding that Belgian deputies had chosen to "stick to Western customs."

The visit had an additional problem after Iran's parliament speaker Gholamali Haddadadel insisted he would not shake hands with the female president of Belgium's Senate.

Anne-Marie Lizin then canceled their meeting. She said in a statement that Iranians should respect local customs in Belgium, just as Belgians should in Iran.

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