DUBAI — Bahrain has criticized Iranian officials over a mistranslation of a speech by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, which replaced the word “Syria” with “Bahrain.”
The reference was diplomatically sensitive.
Morsi gave the speech Thursday during a meeting in Tehran of the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of 120 mostly developing nations.
He did not mention Bahrain, and the Bahraini government lodged a complaint with Iran’s charge d’affaires Saturday over the mistranslation on Iranian state television and radio.
“This is a violation, fabrication and unacceptable media behavior that shows how Iranian media is interfering in Bahrain’s internal affairs,” Bahrain’s news agency BNA said late Saturday, adding that Bahrain had demanded an apology.
The head of Iran’s state media said Sunday the word “Syria” was mistranslated on only one of its channels.
“In a verbal mistake, this translator said ‘Bahrain’ instead of ‘Syria’ and this became a pretext for Western media,” Ezatollah Zarghami was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.
Morsi perturbed his hosts in his speech by describing the government of Syria as “a regime that has lost its legitimacy” and calling for its ouster. His words prompted Syrian delegates to leave the hall.
Egyptian newspapers said Morsi was also misquoted as hoping for the “continuation of the Syrian regime”.
Some Iranians complained online about the Bahrain mistranslation, which was an embarrassment for Tehran as it sought to make diplomatic capital from hosting the summit last week.
“With that intentional translation by Iran’s state television, a great insult was delivered to its viewers,” a reader who gave his name as Ahmadi wrote on the website of the Asr-e Iran newspaper, which published a correct translation of the speech.
Another reader wrote on the website: “For us who were listening on the radio, whenever Morsi said ‘Syria’, the Persian translator, who did not have the required integrity, translated it as ‘Bahrain’!!”
When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Tehran last week he strongly criticised Iran’s human rights record and lack of transparency over its nuclear program. However, Iranian media focused on his references to Iran’s importance in the world and generally ignored his criticisms.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister Saturday suggested Morsi was misinformed about Syria.
Meanwhile, Morsi’s spokesman Yassir Ali denied Sunday statements by Iranian officials that the Egyptian president made mention of resuming ties with Iran during the recent visit to Tehran.
“The meeting between President Mohamed Morsi and his Iranian counterpart (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad did not broach the subject of boosting the level of representation or of opening an embassy,” said Ali, quoted by the state-owned daily Al-Ahram.
According to Ali, the two leaders agreed to hold “more dialogue to examine common affairs, including regional issues.” — Agencies