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G8 Calls For Halt To Iran Violence

  • Antoine Blua

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (right) and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov ahead of the G8 summit in Trieste.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (right) and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov ahead of the G8 summit in Trieste.

Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrial countries have said they "deplore" the postelection violence in Iran, and called on Tehran to settle the crisis "soon" through democratic dialogue and peaceful means.

In their final draft statement, the G8 ministers called on the Iranian government to "guarantee that the will of the Iranian people is reflected in the electoral process."

The text also urged Iran "to respect fundamental human rights including freedom of expression." The compromise declaration was hammered out at a three-day meeting in the Italian city of Trieste.

But it did not condemn explicitly the killing of demonstrators, instead deploring "postelectoral violence which led to the loss of lives of Iranian civilians."

In Trieste, RFE/RL's Radio Farda correspondent Ahmad Rafat says the statement is a compromise between members such as Italy and France, who wanted to send a tough message to Tehran over its handling of the protests and countries like Russia, that claimed any strong condemnation would be counterproductive.

"It seems the differences between Russia and other G8 members have remained, and the draft which has been given to the press unofficially says that the foreign ministers of this group are worried about the principles of human rights and freedom of speech," Rafat says. "But it does not touch the issue of the Iranian election."

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting on June 26, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed Russia's "most serious concern" about the use of force in Iran and urged Tehran to settle matters democratically. Lavrov said the day before that isolating Iran was the "wrong approach" and that "no one wanted to condemn" Tehran over the elections.

The host of the conference, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, told a news conference that the G8 had expressed its "solidarity" with the victims of the violence, while British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said, "There is a crisis of credibility not between Iran and the West, but between the Iranian counting of the votes and the Iranian people."

The G8 also includes Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

On Iran's nuclear program, G8 members expressed their commitment to finding a diplomatic solution. In the draft, Rafat says the G8 countries expressed interest "in the continuation of democratic and diplomatic dialogue with Iran, not only about the recent violence, but also about the Iranian nuclear issue."

The G8 statement also asked Iran to cooperate with the United Nations and the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Confronting Iran

The meeting is tasked with laying the groundwork for the G8 summit in L'Aquila on July 8-10. It was originally due to focus heavily on Afghanistan and was to include representatives from neighboring countries, including Iran, Pakistan, China, and India.

But amid rising tensions between Tehran and the West over Iran's disputed June 12 election, Iran did not respond to Italy's invitation to attend.

Iranian officials have accused G8 members Britain and the United States of inciting street protests in Tehran and other cities.

On June 25 in Tehran, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad answered Barack Obama, after the U.S. president said he was "appalled and outraged" by post-election violence in the Islamic state.

"To take such a rude tone with a great nation is inexcusable. We understand that you are still gaining experience and you are still trying to work out what's hot and what's cold," Ahmadinejad said.

"And I want to give you a bit of friendly advice: We don't want to see a repetition of the mess that was created during the Bush era and we don't want to see the same thing happening to a new administration in the United States."

In reply, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Ahmadinejad was attempting to deflect attention from events at home.

Iran's Guardians Council said on June 26 that the vote was the "healthiest" vote held in the country in the past 30 years. Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai said the body had found "no major violations," and has almost finished reviewing election complaints.

Afghanistan

The working sessions in Trieste dedicated to Afghanistan will focus on border management, the fight against illegal trafficking, refugees and migrants, economic development and infrastructure, and agriculture and food security.

The meeting comes as Western states pledged to ensure security in Afghanistan for the country's August presidential election by sending in extra troops. It also comes amid calls to shift from a military strategy in Afghanistan to one focused mainly on reconstruction, and to improve coordination between all the players in the country.

Overall, the talks in Trieste, which began late on June 25 and are scheduled to end on June 27, are attended by some 40 representatives from governments and international organizations.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is recovering from a broken elbow, has skipped the meeting. William Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, is attending in her place.

Also attending is U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell, and EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana.

RFE/RL's Mazyar Mokfi and Radio Farda contributed to this report
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