Newly appointed Swedish ambassador to Iran Peter Tejler apparently offended Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by crossing his legs, state media reported.
The offending act reportedly came during what was supposed to be the routine diplomatic procedure of presenting his letter of accreditation to the Iranian president.
Photos from the meeting, posted by Iranian website Asiran.com, show Tejler sitting cross-legged. The act seemed to have insulted the Iranian president, causing him to do the same.
"The ambassador's actions are undiplomatic and impolite," an Iranian website reported, adding that, "such behavior deviates from diplomatic and international norms."
According to Muslim tradition, shoes are considered impure and exposing one's shoes or their soles before a high-ranking official is considered a great insult.
"Pointing the soles of the feet towards someone is impolite because the soles of the feet [shoe] are considered dirty, closest to the ground, closer to the devil and farther away from God,” The Atlantic Wire reported. “When in the presence of Muslims, be careful not to raise or cross your legs in such a way that the sole of the foot faces others in the room."
The website of the Swedish Embassy in Tehran confirmed that the ceremony and meeting took place on Monday, December 3, but has no mention of the ambassador's or the president's sitting poses.