Global outcry over deadly post-election protests in Iran
Berlin -- Iran's bloody crackdown on post-election protesters raised an international outcry Tuesday over human rights abuses and demands that Tehran answer "serious questions" about the disputed poll.
Governments from Asia to Europe voiced acute concern about the violence that erupted Monday during massive rallies protesting the re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At least seven people were reported killed.
"We continue to follow events in Iran with great concern. The situation on the streets remains tense," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
"There must be an end to the violence carried out by the security forces on demonstrators."
In Japan, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said his country was "extremely concerned about the confusion in Iran…. We hear about shootings. We hope the situation will come to an end as soon as possible."
Other nations and groups spoke directly about human rights abuses as television viewers worldwide saw images of police clashing with protesters and firing tear-gas, as shots rang out and armed men were seen on a rooftop pointing guns at the angry crowd of more than a million people.
"We are of course gravely concerned about both the reports and images of serious human rights abuses that we’ve seen on camera and in photos in the last 24-36 hours in Tehran," Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said.
The European Commission expressed regret over the violence and loss of life and called on "the Iranian authorities to respect the right to demonstrate in a peaceful manner," a spokesman said in Brussels.
Two human rights organisations accused Iran’s state security forces of using excessive force, including live ammunition, against demonstrators in cities across the country.
"The Ahmadinejad government has a responsibility to stop the use of unlawful force against protesters and to hold accountable those responsible for firing on them with live ammunition," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Ahmadinejad has been declared the victor in Friday’s election with 63 percent of the vote, while his closest rival, moderate ex-premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, has charged vote-rigging. Iran’s electoral watchdog Tuesday said it would agree to a recount if voting irregularities were uncovered.
"The (Iranian) regime must address the serious questions which have been asked about the conduct of the Iranian elections," said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
"The way the regime responds to legitimate protests will have implications for Iran’s relationships with the rest of the world in the future," he added.
For Israel, however, even massive opposition protests — the biggest since the 1979 Islamic revolution — are not a sign that Tehran’s attitude might change towards the Jewish state.
"There are two points of consensus among the Iranian political elite — the hatred of Israel and the will to pursue the nuclear programme," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told army radio Tuesday.
"That’s why we are not placing any hope in what’s happening there."
Western powers fear Iran wants to build an atomic bomb, while Tehran insists its nuclear programme is solely to produce civilian nuclear energy.
Despite the violence and doubts over the validity of the polls, Obama has vowed to stick by his pledge to pursue "tough, hard headed" diplomacy with "no illusions" with Iran on issues including its nuclear programme.
Ahmadinejad himself stepped onto the world stage Tuesday making his foreign trip since the election to key ally Russia.
"The issue of the elections in Iran is an internal affair of the Iranian people," Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, where the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s summit is taking place.
In defiant comments there, Ahmadinejad sent a message to the West: "The international capitalist order is retreating…. It is absolutely obvious that the age of empires has ended and its revival will not take place."