Thursday

28th May 2020

EU leaders urge Iran to halt violence

EU leaders on Friday (19 June) asked Iranian authorities to show restraint against protesters contesting the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"The authorities should refrain from the use of force against peaceful demonstrations," the EU heads of state and government said in a statement. "[We] urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that all Iranians are granted the right to assemble and to express themselves peacefully."

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  • Iranian demonstrators could face a brutal crackdown if they continue protests (Photo: news.gooya.com)

The softly-worded language avoided strong condemnation or siding with Mr Ahmadinejad's contender, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The protests have seen reports of up to 15 killings, accusations of election fraud, mass arrests and a crackdown on media freedoms. Over 100,000 demonstrators were seen on the streets of Tehran on Thursday, despite the heavy pressure.

Iranian supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Friday warned people to respect the outcome of the vote or be "held responsible for chaos," in a speech widely seen as a threat of further violence.

He blamed Great Britain, the US and Israel for trying to foment unrest, with crowds chanting "Death to the United States."

The UK reacted by summoning the Iranian ambassador to London to give an explanation. But Europe is wary of being accused of Western meddling.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said it was up to Iran "to show the world and its people that the elections have been fair and that the repression is not to be repeated."

German chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed her "disappointment" with the ayatollah's intervention.

German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier went slightly further. "I also think the speech did not meet the expectations of the international community and the hopes of the Iranian people," he said.

"We have great respect for the brave people in Iran, who took to the streets every day in the past week, fighting for their convictions and the right to have free elections. This fact alone changes a bit the image of Iran."

Meanwhile, Italy has defended its invitation of the Iranian foreign minister to attend a meeting of the Group of Eight industrialised countries (G8) next week in Trieste.

The meeting is mainly aimed at securing regional support for the war in Afghanistan and the escalating violence in Pakistan, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi explained at a press conference on Friday.

"[The invitation] is in agreement with the US administration. We equally believe it is important to involve Iran in the stabilisation of Afghanistan," he said.

Asked if Germany welcomed the presence of the Iranian official at the G8 meeting, Mr Steinmeier said it would not help to retract the invitation.

"I think we must respect the US position in criticising strongly the reaction of Iranian authorities towards the demonstrators, but we must also realise that we won't solve these conflicts just by withdrawing our foreign policy activities," he said.

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