State secretary resigns over Iranian expenses at Brussels Urban Summit
Brussels secretary of state Pascal Smet (One.Brussels-Vooruit) resigned on Sunday afternoon over allegations that Belgian funds were used to pay for the accommodation of the Iranian delegation at the Brussels Urban Summit.
Smet was criticised last week over the presence of the mayor of Tehran, Alireza Zakani, at the Brussels Urban Summit, an international event attended by mayors and cities from all over the world. He was accused of exerting pressure to push through the granting of visas for the Iranian delegation.
"My moral compass is more important than throwing colleagues under the bus"
Smet insists that he did not put pressure on the government to grant the visas, but is resigning because of a mistake by his administration which meant that Belgium paid for the accommodation of the Iranian delegation in Brussels.
"I cannot in good conscience accept that Belgian money for accommodation should go to a representative of the Iranian or Russian regimes," Smet said. "I am responsible for the employee's mistake. My moral compass is more important than throwing colleagues under the bus."
There was further controversy on Friday when it emerged that two Russian officials had been invited to the event, despite current EU policy calling for their exclusion. A spokesperson for Smet said he had been "convinced that no Russian politicians will be present" at the summit.
© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK