G8 foreign ministers meeting in Trieste have called on Tehran to halt a violent crackdown on those protesting the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but stopped short of questioning the disputed June 12 vote results.
AFP - The Group of Eight leading powers on Friday called on Iran to immediately put a halt to post-election violence but refrained from calling into question the poll result.
Despite calls from Italy and France for a firm condemnation, the G8 foreign ministers backed off from harsh criticism and instead said the crisis should be settled "soon" through peaceful means.
"We want violence to stop immediately," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told a news conference after releasing a carefully-worded declaration from the world powers.
G8 member Russia had warned against isolating Iran with a toughly-worded condemnation, arguing that it could trigger a backlash from Tehran that would jeopardise cooperation with the Islamic republic over its nuclear programme.
"We are concerned about the aftermath of the Iranian presidential election," the foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States said in their statement.
"We fully respect the sovereignty of Iran. At the same time we deplore post-election violence which led to the loss of lives of Iranian civilians and urge Iran to respect fundamental human rights."
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won re-election in the June 12 polls but the opposition has charged that the vote was rigged and several Western governments have questioned the legitimacy of the result.
The West has expressed alarm over Tehran's crackdown on mass street protests, arrests of opposition members and severe restrictions placed on the media following the contested vote.
"The crisis should be settled soon through democratic dialogue and peaceful means," the G8 ministers said.
Meeting in the northern Adriatic city of Trieste, the G8 called on the Iranian government to "guarantee that the will of the Iranian people is reflected in the electoral process."
In Tehran, Iran's electoral watchdog closed an investigation into charges of fraud on Friday, saying the body had found no "major irregularities."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner acknowledged that the joint declaration was a compromise between a tougher European stance and Russia's more conciliatory stance.
"It's obvious that we were not in agreement on the situation in Iran," said Kouchner. "We are united on the nuclear issue and that's positive."
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said "there is unity here that it is up to the Iranian people to choose their government and it is for the Iranian government to protect their people."
Divergences appeared when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that isolating Iran was the "wrong approach" and that "no one wanted to condemn" Iran over the elections.
Moscow, which hosted Ahmadinejad at a summit a few days after his contested re-election, has said the election turmoil is an Iranian internal matter, although it has called for a peaceful resolution.
"The United States is deeply troubled by the use of violence," said US Under Secretary of State William Burns. "Such actions against peaceful demonstrators are profoundly unjust."
The G8 talks in Trieste have been overshadowed by the Iran crisis as ministers sought to renew efforts on Afghanistan and the Middle East peace process.
G8 ministers were to turn their attention to Afghanistan as the Taliban insurgency rages on, nearly eight years after the Islamic militia was ousted from Kabul.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was to attend a meeting of the diplomatic quartet on the Middle East -- the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations -- in a bid to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian talks.
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 : 2009-06-27