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Russia in G8 rebuke to Tehran

June 27, 2009

published on FT on June 27 2009

Russia on Friday joined growing international condemnation of the Iranian crackdown on demonstrators, signing up to a statement by Group of Eight foreign ministers which also kept open the possibility of direct engagement with Tehran over its nuclear programme.

“We express our solidarity with those who have suffered repression while peacefully demonstrating, and urge Iran to respect fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression,” G8 ministers, meeting in Trieste, northern Italy, declared.

“We call on the Iranian government to guarantee that the will of the Iranian people is reflected in the electoral process,” the statement said, dedicating three paragraphs to Iran out of eight pages dealing with a wide range of
international issues.

Russia has already congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran’s hardline president, following the official
declaration of his June 12 election victory and hosted him in Moscow immediately afterwards.

Diplomats said Russia was not enthusiastic and had opposed use of the word “condemn”, agreeing instead to “deplore” the violence, and insisting that the ministers did not comment directly on the electoral process. Still,
envoys insisted the Russian shift was significant and would add to the pressure on Tehran.

“It’s good and robust language on Iran,” said a senior UK official. “We would probably have wanted to go a
bit further in our condemnation, but there is still a strong statement of unity here.”

The G8 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and US.

Diplomats said the discussions over Iran, starting over dinner on Thursday, were dominated by a sense that profound events were unfolding in Tehran without any clear idea of the outcome. Japan, for example, was wary of too strong a statement that would backfire by placing Mir-Hossein Moussavi in an even more difficult situation.

“Sooner or later we need to engage on the nuclear dossier. But who do you engage with?” one senior envoy
asked.

On Iran’s nuclear programme, there was no mention of sanctions. Ministers expressed deep concern over
proliferation risks, and said: “We sincerely hope that Iran will seize this opportunity to give diplomacy a chance
to find a negotiated solution to the nuclear issue.”

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