April 19, 2009 / 9:39 PM / 11 years ago

Swiss and Iran presidents discuss energy, Saberi

GENEVA, April 19 (Reuters) - The presidents of Iran and Switzerland met on Sunday to discuss diplomatic issues including an eight-year jail sentence for a U.S.-Iranian journalist convicted in Iran of spying.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hans-Rudolf Merz focused mainly on “questions related to collaboration in the energy and economic sectors”, the Swiss government said in a statement after they met at a Geneva hotel.

Switzerland has been representing U.S. interests in Iran since 1980, because Washington has no direct diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic.

“Within the scope of this mandate undertaken by Switzerland as a protecting power, various unresolved cases of consular protection were discussed, including the sentencing of the American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi,” the Swiss statement read. A spokeswoman declined to offer more details.

Ahmadinejad was due to speak on Monday at a United Nations conference on racism, which Western powers including the United States, Australia, Germany, and Canada have said they will boycott.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon expressed dismay about the Swiss-Iranian meeting, which he said “only harms and undermines the dignity of the one setting up the meeting”.

Ahmadinejad has previously said Israel should be “wiped off the map” and questioned whether the Nazi Holocaust happened. (Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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