West cautious on Iran

2009-06-14 09:25

Paris - World powers including Britain and the United States reacted cautiously on Saturday to the disputed Iranian presidential election in which incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been declared winner.

As thousands of supporters of the main challenger, moderate ex-premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, swept through Tehran in protest, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed hope the result would reflect the will of voters.

"The United States has refrained from commenting on the election in Iran. We obviously hope that the outcome reflects the genuine will and desire of the Iranian people," Clinton said.

The United States is "monitoring the situation as it unfolds in Iran," she added, following allegations of voting irregularities.

The European Union expressed "concerned about alleged irregularities during the election process and post-election violence."

Concerns over election

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said Canada was "deeply concerned" by reports that the election was not free and fair.

"We're troubled by reports of intimidation, of opposition candidates' offices, by security forces," he said.

France's foreign ministry said it "took note" of the re-election as well as the "contested result".

Ex-US president Jimmy Carter said there would be no change in American policy "because the same person will be there" in brief remarks after he met Palestinian officials in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

William Hague, foreign affairs spokesperson for Britain's main opposition Conservative Party, said the result was a "blow to all those Iranians who had hoped for a change in leadership, reform in their country and better relations with the outside world."

He said he was "particularly concerned by reports that the result was rigged... If this is indeed the case, it bodes ill for hopes that Iran is ready to pursue a path of engagement rather than defiance in respect of its nuclear programme."

In Moscow, the chairperson of the Duma (parliament) Committee on International Affairs Konstantin Kosachev said he hoped Ahmadinejad would "show more understanding and wisdom towards the international community during his second term."

The European Union, which has led efforts to engage Iran on its contested nuclear programme, said in a statement it "hopes that outcome of the presidential elections will bring the opportunity to resume the dialogue on nuclear issue and clear up Iranian position in this regard."

Danny Ayalon, deputy foreign minister of Israel, whose hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regards Iran as the greatest threat faced by his country since its creation in 1948, expressed disappointment.

The threat of Iran

"The results of the election show, now more than ever, how much stronger the Iranian threat has become," Ayalon said.

"The international community must stop the nuclear programme and the terrorism coming from Iran," Ayalon added in a statement, referring to Iran's nuclear energy drive which major powers fear could hide efforts to build atomic weapons.

The Arab League urged Ahmadinejad to use his re-election to resolve the nuclear issue and establish peace and security in the Middle East.

"We hope to work together to achieve regional security through ridding the Middle East East of weapons of mass destruction," said Arab League chief Amr Mussa, according to Egypt's MENA news agency.

The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, founded in July 1981 in Tehran to oppose the fundamentalist regime ruling Iran and establish a pluralist democracy, deplored the result.

It said it would lead to the "redoubling of efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, rise in export of terrorism and fundamentalism, further meddling in Iraq and incitement of conflict in the region.

Based on its network within in Iran monitoring 25 000 polling stations, it put the "real voter turnout" at 7.5 million compared with the nearly 40 million claimed.

"The theocratic dictatorship, which has never allowed international observers to monitor elections in Iran, usually inflates voter turnout by four to five times," it added.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in a message, stressed the need for the two countries to "work together to achieve lasting and comprehensive peace in the region and the world," the state-run SANA news agency said.

In Kabul, Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta said, "The wish of Afghanistan is to see a stable and proud Iran."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez telephoned Ahmadinejad to congratulate him, telling him the victory "represents the feeling and commitment of the Iranian people to building a new world."