THE Iranian resistance group has called for the Italian prime minister to cancel a visit to Iran next week amid fears it will be used by Tehran to legitimise human rights violations in the country.

Prime minister Matteo Renzi’s visit will come three months after Iranian president Hassan Rouhani went to Europe after years of economic sanctions were lifted, and signed business deals worth billions of pounds.

Iran has an economy worth $400 billion (£283.8bn) and European countries are keen to re-establish trade ties.

However, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said more than 2,300 people had been executed there during Rouhani’s regime – according to a UN special rapporteur, the highest figure over the past 25 years.

The NCRI said the Tehran regime “manipulates such visits against the highest interests of the people of Iran and against peace and tranquillity in the region”.

Its spokesman in Paris, Shahin Gobadi, told The National yesterday: “The Iranian regime is very egregious and only feeds Tehran’s propaganda. It has no interest in improving Iran’s conduct at home or abroad.

“Actions talk louder than words and under Rouhani the human rights situation is becoming much worse. Just yesterday a report by Amnesty International put Iran far ahead of any other country in terms of executions in 2015.”

“Look at Iran’s conduct regarding missile tests, or for sending weapons abroad. In recent weeks three ships containing Iranian weapons destined for Yemen’s Houthis were intercepted by the French, Australian and American naval forces in international waters.”

Gobadi said it was unlikely that Italy would condemn human rights issues in a meeting with Rouhani, in which case the premier’s visit should be called off. If it went ahead as planned, it would send a message to Iranians that such behaviour was acceptable.

“It would say Europeans are willing to gloss over Iran’s human rights record, its support of terrorism, its unconditional support for [Syria’s] Bashar al-Assad in subjugating his people.”

He added that trade was the obvious impetus for the Italian prime minister’s visit, but there were questions over what the price was and who would pay it.

“Iranians pay the price – the people of the region – and let’s be honest the international community as a whole will pay the price.

“People the world over are realising how dreadful and threatening Islamic fundamentalism and extremism has become. Iran has been one of the main instigators of such extremism in the past 35 years – it is the godfather of Islamic extremism.”

Gobadi said the NCRI was hopeful that Renzi’s visit could still be called off, and pointed out that Rouhani had unexpectedly cancelled a state visit to Austria last week to meet president Heinz Fischer and other leaders.

He cited security concerns, according to an Austrian government statement, while Iran said it was a mutual agreement to allow for “better preparation”.

“He called off his trip a few hours before he was due to leave because of the case the NCRI had made. It’s important that the international community stop seeing Iran through rose-tinted glasses,” said Gobadi.

“Rouhani has been a key official in this regime and has held important positions in the theocracy and has to be held accountable for this regime.

“This notion of radicals versus moderates is fanciful, foolhardy and delusional. When it comes to the regime’s conduct, particularly on human rights, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation and things of this nature, they are all in the same boat.

“Rouhani is cut from the same cloth as the rest of the ayatollahs are.”