Daily Telegraph: Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president, issued the strongest condemnation of Iran's leadership yet seen from a world leader as the country's dispute with European states grew increasingly bitter.
The Daily Telegraph
Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president, issued the strongest condemnation of Iran's leadership yet seen from a world leader as the country's dispute with European states grew increasingly bitter.
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
In remarks that coincided with a fresh denunciation of Western meddling in Iranian affairs by its top leader, Mr Sarkozy said he was "shocked" by Iran's behaviour. He said: "We believe the Iranian people deserve better than the leadership they have today."
After meeting with Gordon Brown in Evian-les-Bains, Mr Sarkozy declared France stood "shoulder-to-shoulder" with Britain in its efforts to secure the release of embassy employees under arrest in Tehran. "We will do whatever they want us to do," he said.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, delivered a strong warning to the West that its backing for pro-democracy demonstrations would have a lasting impact on relations with the Islamic Republic. "The leaders of arrogant countries, the nosy meddlers in the affairs of the Islamic republic, must know that no matter if the Iranian people have their own differences, when you enemies get involved, the people will become a firm fist against you," he said. "The Iranian nation warns the leaders of those countries trying to take advantage of the situation, beware! The Iranian nation will react."
Mr Sarkozy's swipe at the Iranian leadership is likely to be seized on by Tehran as proof that Europe's governments are keen to encourage opponents of its hardline leadership while rejecting claims of interference. The exchanges exacerbated tensions ahead of a G8 summit in Rome at the end of the week that could see splits if Russia and China fail to back calls for a tough statement.
"Some leaders of Western countries at the level of president, prime minister and foreign minister openly intervened in Iran's internal affairs that had nothing to do with them," said Ayatollah Khamenei. "Then, they said they don't intervene in Iran's internal affairs."
Behind-the-scenes efforts to secure the release of the British embassy's chief political analyst, Hossein Rassam, who has been held on suspicion of violating national security, were said to have made progress. Mr Rossam's lawyer, Abolsamad Khorramshahi contradicted earlier reports that he had been formally charged and said he hoped to get a judge to order his release within days.
The release of an eighth member of the group of nine local staff members rounded up 10 days ago was confirmed yesterday and Foreign Officials said the focus was now Mr Rassam. "It remains our top priority to get all of our embassy staff released as soon as possible," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said. "We are continuing intensive discussions with the Iranian authorities and our international partners to resolve this."
Gordon Brown was careful not to incur charges that Britain hankered after regime change in Iran but he joined Mr Sarkozy in lambasting the leadership's recent behaviour. "We both agree that the outcome of Iran's election is a matter for the Iranian people," Mr Brown said. "But the totally unjustified expulsions of foreign diplomats and continued detention of embassy staff is unacceptable and unjustified. "
Iran's former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi objected to the official election results following voting on June 12 and has claimed 25 different irregularities produced a landslide victory for incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Norooz News, an opposition website yesterday reported that one of his supporters in the northeast city of Mashad, Hamid Maddah Shourche died after enduring torture in prison. Human rights groups have reported multiple incidents of torture and abuse in Iran's overcrowded prisons since the official crackdown began.