AFP: French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday branded Iran's election result a fraud as the international outcry over the security forces' crackdown on the opposition in Tehran intensified.
PARIS (AFP) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday branded Iran's election result a fraud as the international outcry over the security forces' crackdown on the opposition in Tehran intensified.
Governments from Asia to Europe voiced concern about the violence that erupted Monday during rallies protesting the hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election, with US President Barack Obama saying he had "deep concerns" while also not wanting to meddle in Iran's affairs.
But while some governments tried to avoid taking sides, Sarkozy said the unrest was a direct result of Ahmadinejad's failings in his first term.
"The extent of the fraud is proportional to the violent reaction," said the French leader.
"It is a tragedy, but it is not negative to have a real opinion movement that tries to break its chains," Sarkozy said.
"If Ahmadinejad has really made progress since the last election and if he really represents two thirds of the electorate… why has this violence erupted?"
At least seven people were killed on Monday in street battles between the security forces and supporters of Iran's former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi who claim that their man was cheated of victory in Friday's poll.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said questions about the validity of the outcome needed to be answered and that the violent scenes threatened Iran's international standing.
"The regime must address the serious questions which have been asked about the conduct of the Iranian elections," said 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."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there "must be an end to the violence carried out by the security forces on demonstrators" while his Dutch counterpart Maxime Verhagen summoned the Iranian charge d'affaires.
"It cannot be that peaceful demonstrations are broken up violently," a statement issued by his office said.
In Japan, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said his country was "extremely concerned" about the situation while Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith expressed his disquiet over "images of serious human rights abuses that we've seen on camera and in photos."
Rights groups also denounced the bloody crackdown with the New York-based Human Rights Watch saying the Ahmadinejad government "has a responsibility to stop the use of unlawful force against protesters."
Despite the welter of criticism, Iran remained defiant and diplomats from Britain and the Czech Republic — the current holders of the EU presidency — were summoned in protest.
"Neither the European Union nor other countries are in a position to have the right to make rude and interfering remarks against Iran, especially about our glorious election," Czech charge d'affaires Josef Havlas was told.
Obama meanwhile said he would not meddle in internal Iranian politics — reflecting a more widespread reluctance of governments to be sucked into the maelstrom.
"I have said before that I have deep concerns about the election. I think that the world has deep concerns about the election," Obama said.
"It is not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling — the US president meddling in Iranian elections."
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said it was important to avoid the impression that it was "a pro-West versus an anti-West competition in Iran.
"It is a competition to reflect the will of the Iranian people and I think that we have to hold fast to that point," he said.
The government in Russia — Iran's key ally — also said it was not up to outsiders to judge what was going on in Iran.
"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 Ahmadinejad was attending a summit.
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."