Posted on July 1, 2005

No beer? No lunch!

Reuters, June 30

BRUSSELS — A lunch meeting between a leading parliamentarian in Belgium and counterparts from Iran has been canceled because the beer-loving Belgian could not stomach a ban on alcohol.

“Even for the tolerant Herman De Croo, that was a bridge too far,” De Croo, a Dutch-speaking Liberal, told De Standaard daily Thursday.

De Croo, president of parliament’s lower house, had been due to entertain the speaker and members of the Iranian parliament Friday during their visit to Belgium — famous for its diversity of beer brands.

But 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.

The visit ran into further trouble after Iran’s parliament speaker Gholamali Haddadadel insisted he would not shake hands with the female president of Belgium’s Senate.

Anne-Marie Lizin, a Socialist, 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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