G8 to Iran: Reflect will of people

June 26, 2009 4:50:02 AM PDT
Foreign ministers from Group of Eight countries on Friday said they deplored postelection violence in Iran and urged Tehran authorities to ensure that the outcome of Iran's disputed election reflects the will of the Iranian people. A statement by the ministers meeting in the northeastern Italian city of Trieste said the door must remain open to dialogue on Iran's nuclear program but expressed "deep concern" over the proliferation risk.

The statement was the result of negotiations between countries such as Italy and France that wanted to send a tough message to Iran to halt the crackdown and demand a recount, and Russia, which has said it backs the results that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

The statement, issued on the second day of the three-day meeting, said G-8 ministers deplored the postelection violence. "We express our solidarity with those who have suffered repression while peacefully demonstrating and urge Iran to respect human rights, including freedom of expression," it said.

It called on Iran "to guarantee that the will of the Iranian people is reflected in the electoral process."

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of human lives," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said at a news conference, other G-8 officials by his side. "We have stressed the need that violence cease immediately."

Italy originally invited Iran to attend the three-day gathering as a special guest, arguing that it could play an important role in talks on Afghan stabilization. But Rome retracted the invitation after Iran failed to respond, and amid concerns over the violence in the streets of Tehran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow wanted to express its "most serious concern" over the use of force by Iran and the death of peaceful protesters.

"At the same time, we will not interfere in Iran's internal affairs. Our position is that all issues that have emerged in the context of the elections will be sorted out in line with democratic procedures," he said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, whose government expelled two Iranian diplomats earlier this week after Iran did the same to two British envoys, said that the violence was "deplorable" and that Iran's accusations that the protests were mobilized by Western powers were "without foundation."

"We deplore violence but we remain committed to engagement as a means to an end," said Miliband.

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