Britain 'must not take sides' over Iran poll

Britain must not take sides in the Iranian election dispute, Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned today as he said there were "credible reports" of more than seven deaths in deadly clashes.



Appealing for restraint by the authorities in Tehran, he played down the reforming credentials of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and said the West should not "fall into the trap" of backing one side.

Mr Miliband spoke out shortly before it was reported that the country's Guardian Council had declared itself ready to recount votes after the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which has sparked mass protests.

"The most fervent hope is for peaceful protest to be met with peaceful response from the state authorities," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"The loss of life that's happened - the seven that have been reported, the credible reports of greater loss of life - are to be deplored very clearly."

But he said it was vital that the UK, the US and other nations were not seen to interfere, echoing American President Barack Obama's message that, whatever the election result, "the world is watching".

"I thought that President Obama chose his words very carefully and very appropriately last night and I spoke to Mrs (Hillary) Clinton, the Secretary of State, and we are all determined not to fall into the trap of being seen to back one side or the other," Mr Miliband said.

"This is not 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."

Offering help to the protesters would be counter-productive, he said.

"The long thesis of the conspiracy of foreign powers against Iran is one that is deeply ingrained in the popular imagination and peddled vociferously by the regime.

"What is very, very important is that we continue to show respect for the Iranian people - that's what President Obama did yesterday - that we continue to insist that it is for them to choose their government."

There was "real discontent" among a wide cross-section of Iranian society and not just in the capital, he said, but it should not be forgotten that Mr Mousavi was "one of the regime's founding figures".

"It would be quite wrong to present this as a clash between on the one hand the hardliner and on the other hand the raging reformer.

"Mr Mousavi is a pragmatic reformer but he is part of the revolutionary generation.

"Our position must be, to be absolutely clear, that internally it is a matter for the Iranians to choose their own government but externally the world needs an Iranian government that is willing to live up to its responsibilities.

"That, of course, is not just something for the president; it is a critical role for the supreme leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) who sets the tone and substance of Iranian international policy."



Prime Minister Gordon Brown today urged Iran to listen to its people's grievances in the wake of the country's election dispute.

Speaking about the situation during a tour of communications firm Arqiva in south east London ahead of today's Digital Britain report launch, Mr Brown said: "The elections are a matter for the Iranian people, but if there are serious questions that are now being asked about the conduct of the elections, they have got to be answered.

"There must be no violence in response to peaceful protests.

"I think Iran has got to listen very carefully, because the relationship they will have and the respect they will have from the rest of the world will depend on how they respond to what are legitimate grievances that are being expressed and have to be answered."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?