Western countries condemn Iran crackdown

Western countries have denounced Iran's crackdown on opposition protesters and reformist politicians. Russia, which has the strongest ties with Iran of any major power, raised its concerns in a more mildly worded statement, calling for restraint.


AFP - Western countries on Monday denounced Iran's crackdown on opposition protesters, the European Union denouncing the use of "brutal force" as Britain paid tribute to the demonstrators' "great courage".

Iranian security forces continued their crackdown on Monday, arresting more than a dozen reformist politicians and opposition figures a day after at least eight people were killed in clashes in Tehran, opposition websites said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband hailed the "great courage" of Iranian pro-opposition supporters and said the deaths were "yet another reminder of how the Iranian regime deals with protest."

He also noted that the crackdown came during Shiite Islam's holiest festival, Ashura.

"It is therefore particularly disturbing to hear accounts of the lack of restraint by the security forces," he said.

Miliband called on Iran to honour its commitment to respect the rights of its citizens, a demand echoed by the European Union and other Western countries.

"Brutal force against, and the arbitrary detentions of demonstrators constitute gross violations of these basic human rights," the EU presidency said in a statement from Stockholm.

Thousands of protesters poured on to streets of Tehran and other major cities Sunday to protest President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in a June 12 vote. The opposition has contested the official result.

Police fired tear gas and beat demonstrators with batons in the bloodiest showdown since demonstrations that erupted directly after the vote when authorities said 36 were killed, while the opposition put the toll at 72.

Washington led the criticism with a blunt condemnation late Sunday that contrasted with its careful responses following initial post-election protests in June.

"Hope and history are on the side of those who peacefully seek their universal rights, and so is the United States," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel added her criticism on Monday, saying the right to free expression through peaceful demonstrations "must not be restricted or suppressed by violence.

"I condemn the recent violent clashes in Iran in which people died due to the unacceptable actions of the security forces," she said.

France warned Tehran its actions would "lead nowhere" and urged a negotiated political settlement.

"At a time when the death toll is rising, France again expresses its deep concern and condemns the arbitrary arrests and violence carried out against ordinary protesters," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

French relations with Iran have been hit by the trial of 24-year-old teacher Clotilde Reiss, who is accused of having supported the June opposition protests.

Italy appealed to the Iranian authorities to end "the spiral of violence" and seek a political solution though democratic dialogue.

And Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said Iran should know that the international community was "watching the actions of the security forces very closely.

"Their brutal assaults on protesting citizens who are only trying to exercise their basic political rights are unacceptable," he added.

Canada objected to the use of "brutal violence", and Norway called on Iranian officials to "immediately cease" the use of force and political detentions.

Russia, which has the strongest ties with Iran of any major power, raised its concerns in a more mildly worded statement, calling for restraint.

"We are worried about the events that have taken place in Iran in recent days," the foreign ministry said.

"In our opinion, the main thing in this situation is to show restraint, look for and find compomises on the basis of law, undertake political efforts to prevent further escalation of the internal confrontation."

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