TEHRAN - Iran announced on Tuesday it is investigating angry allegations made in Brazil that one of its diplomats fondled underaged girls in a Brasilia swimming pool.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters the accused diplomat had been recalled to Iran and would be "dealt with" according to the ministry's disciplinary rules.
He also said the incident, which occurred mid-April, was being twisted by some Western and Arab media "for political gain" against Iran.
According to Brazilian media, the Iranian diplomat was accused of groping at least four Brazilian girls aged between nine and 15 while swimming in a chic Brasilia sports club, prompting them to cry and attracting the fury of their parents.
"People wanted to kill him. If the club had not deployed security personnel, today they would be looking for me to talk about homicide or lynching," the father of one of the girls, who asked not to be named, was quoted as saying by the G1 news website.
Brasilia police arrested the Iranian but quickly released him because of his diplomatic immunity.
Brazilian media identified the diplomat as Hekmatollah Ghorbani, 51, and said he was the third-ranking official in the Iranian embassy in Brasilia. They said he was married, with children, and had been in his post for two years.
The Iranian embassy defended the diplomat by issuing a statement saying the groping allegations were the result of a "cultural misunderstanding" and accusing the Brazilian media of bias.
But Brazil's foreign ministry said it was looking into the case and taking formal steps of notifying the Iranian mission.
On Tuesday, when asked to explain the "cultural misunderstanding", Mehmanparast replied: "On principle, we do not accept this person being at a mixed-sex swimming pool, and it is considered a disciplinary violation and therefore he was summoned home at once and we are reviewing his case."
He added that the diplomat "will be dealt with according to the foreign ministry's disciplinary rules."
In Iran, men and women of any age are not permitted to share swimming pools. Iran's officials and representatives are expected to follow Islamic rules while abroad.