BERLIN - Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier came under fire over a congratulatory telegram sent to Iran on the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, with a Jewish community leader on Monday joining a chorus of criticism.
Taking aim at Steinmeier for failing to include criticisms of the Islamic regime in the message, Josef Schuster, who heads Germany's Central Council of Jews, said that "routine diplomacy appears to have overtaken critical thinking".
"It is incomprehensible that sensitivity was missing in the topic of Iran in the president's office," Schuster told Bild daily.
"If it was necessary to send congratulations on this anniversary, then the president should have at least found some clear words criticizing the regime," he added.
Human Rights Watch's director for Germany, Wenzel Michalski, has also called the message "shocking."
The foreign policy chief of the business-friendly FDP party, Frank Mueller-Rosentritt, said the telegram must have felt like a "resounding slap in the face for our friends in Israel who are exposed to constant threats of annihilation by Iran".
The telegram has not been made public by the president's office. But Bild last week quoted excerpts of the message, which it said included Steinmeier's promise to do all in his power to implement the nuclear deal on limiting Tehran's atomic program.
The newspaper said however that there was no mention of Tehran's backing of Hamas and Hezbollah in the message.
At the government's weekly briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said there had been a "misunderstanding."
"To our knowledge, the president did not send congratulations for the anniversary of the Islamic revolution. His congratulations were on the occasion of Iran's national day celebrations. Both days fall on the same day.
"It is common practice for states that have diplomatic relations to send congratulations on national day celebrations," Breul said on Friday.