UPI: Iranian expatriates living in Europe staged a large anti-regime rally over the weekend, with European leaders increasing the pressure on Tehran.
United Press International
PARIS, June 22 (UPI) — Iranian expatriates living in Europe staged a large anti-regime rally over the weekend, with European leaders increasing the pressure on Tehran.
Iran is at a crossroads, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said over the weekend.
"Either it will be possible to defuse the situation that has arisen in a dialog of all political forces; or the situation threatens to escalate further," he said in a statement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tehran to recount the votes of the controversial June 12 presidential election, which demonstrators say was rigged. She also urged Tehran to end the violence against protesters.
"Germany is on the side of the Iranian people who want to exercise their rights to free speech and assembly," Merkel said in a statement Sunday.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been highly critical of the crackdown on protesters, calling it "brutal" and "disproportional."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in a newspaper interview sought to defuse tensions, calling on Europe to engage Tehran in dialogue to improve the situation in Iran.
"We should pursue the effort for dialogue that we have put in place alongside sanctions because of the nuclear danger," Kouchner was quoted by Sunday weekly Journal du Dimanche as saying. While he noted that protesters were demanding international support, "this doesn't mean we will settle the problem in place of the Iranians."
The paper hit the newsstands a day after tens of thousands of Iranians had gathered in Paris Saturday to show their support for the anti-government demonstrators in Iran.
Organized the by National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exiled opposition group, the rally in a Paris suburb drew nearly 90,000 people. The council leader, Maryam Rajavi, demanded that the election result be annulled. All over Europe, Iranian expatriates have been holding demonstrations because of the controversial elections. The biggest protests have of course rocked Iran, with at least 10 people killed over the weekend, Iran's state TV said Sunday.
The Islamic Republic's leaders have lashed out at governments in the United States and Europe, urging them not to interfere with Iran's domestic affairs.
In a speech to foreign diplomats Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said he was "highly critical of some Western countries, especially France, Germany, Britain and the United States, for their inappropriate, illogical and interfering words."
He said the possibility that the vote had been rigged was "close to zero," adding that Western media have over-dramatized the protests. A BBC correspondent has been ordered to leave Iran because of his reporting. Tehran has accused the BBC, one of the world's most respected news outlets, of fueling protests. Mottaki said London had for long tried to influence the Iranian elections, adding that British spies had made their way into Iran in the days before the election.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband strongly denied those accusations.
"I reject categorically the idea that the protesters in Iran are manipulated or motivated by foreign countries," Miliband said in a statement Sunday. "The U.K. is categorical that it is for the Iranian people to choose their government and for the Iranian authorities to ensure the fairness of the result and the protection of their own people."