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Latest update : 2009-06-27

Foreign ministers of the G8 countries meeting in Italy Friday are expected to react to the post-election violence in Iran in the first high-level international summit since the disputed June 12 poll.

AFP  - Group of Eight foreign ministers meeting in Italy were expected Friday to condemn post-election violence in Iran while keeping the door open to dialogue with the Islamic republic.

As the ministers opened the three days of talks Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned against isolating Iran, saying it was the "wrong approach."

His Italian counterpart Franco Frattini said the G8 was working on "a good document that would include condemnation... but at the same time one that will recognise that electoral procedures are an Iranian question."

Tensions have been rising between Iran and the West over Tehran's suppression of mass street protests sparked by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's contested re-election.

Russia has refused to condemn Iran for the turmoil since the June 12 poll, calling it an internal matter, but Moscow has called on Tehran to resolve the dispute peacefully through constitutional means.

Lavrov suggested that harsh words would undermine the more important goal of addressing Iran's nuclear programme. "We must focus on the main objectives that will allow us to move forward to resolve the problem of Iran's nuclear programme," he said.

Frattini's spokesman Maurizio Massari insisted "there's no division" among the ministers, who were seeking to balance the need to respond forcefully to the crackdown while "keeping the door open as much as possible for the future."

"It is not for us to say how internal procedures should be activated or modified to reach" a peaceful solution to the crisis, he told a press briefing.

The Group of Eight -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- kicked off the gathering with a working dinner at the Palazzo della Regione in the city overlooking the Adriatic Sea.

The Italian foreign minister earlier voiced confidence that the world powers would stand together in condemning the Islamic regime over violence that has left at least 17 dead, according to state media.

"Iran is at a turning point," Frattini said. "It must now choose whether or not it wants to keep the door open to dialogue with the international community -- because the open hand from the United States, that we supported, must not be greeted with a hand covered in blood."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is recovering from an elbow injury, could not attend the talks, and is represented by the State Department's number three William Burns.

The meeting had been initially scheduled to focus on stabilising Afghanistan and advancing the Middle East peace process.

On Friday, an expanded G8 meeting with regional players will be held to shore up peace efforts in Afghanistan as the Taliban insurgency rages on, nearly eight years after the Islamic militia was ousted from Kabul.

Pakistan's top diplomat Makhdoom Mahmood Qureshi and his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta will attend, as well as Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, among others with key roles in the region.

Also Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to attend a meeting of the diplomatic quartet on the Middle East in a bid to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian talks.

The Quartet principals from the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations are also hoping to meet with League of Arab states members to move forward on a roadmap that calls for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The foreign ministers' meeting, which ends on Saturday, is laying the groundwork for the G8 summit in two weeks in L'Aquila, the central Italian city devastated by an earthquake in April.

Date created : 2009-06-26