Sunday, March 12, 2006

Britain to Urge Europe to Help Iranians Win More Freedom

Madeline Chambers, Reuters:
Britain will call on Monday for an expansion of global broadcasting in Iran and more material in Farsi published on the Internet in an effort to support Iranians' aspirations for greater freedom. At a time when Iran is locked in a dispute with the international community over its nuclear programme, Foreign Minister Jack Straw will say in a speech, extracts of which were obtained by Reuters, that the Islamic state is heading in the wrong direction.

He will urge world organisations to boost the information flow to Iranians who may have little access to outside news.

"Iran is going in the wrong direction, chances are being squandered, Iran and the Iranian people deserve better," Straw will say in a major speech which could be interpreted by some as an attempt to interfere in Iran's domestic affairs.

"We in European countries need to communicate better with the Iranian people," he will say. READ MORE

His speech, at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, will come a month after the United States outlined plans to expand television broadcasts to Iran and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Congress for $75 million (43 million pounds) to help open up its tightly controlled society.

While cautioning that Britain has no interest in taking part in internal debates, Straw will say Europe should not look the other way when Iran fails to embrace human rights.

"We should not stop standing up for principles for human rights and fundamental freedoms which we hold dear to ourselves and which so many Iranians aspire to," he will say.


He will draw attention to cases where Iranian authorities have cracked down on the media and will call on European colleagues to talk more to Iranian journalists.

"I encourage international organisations and non-governmental organisations to make reports on Iranian affairs available in Farsi on the Internet."

"And we need to think about whether there is more we can do to ensure reliable and trusted news services are able to broadcast in Farsi to the Iranians."

Straw will avoid targeting the current Iranian government alone by saying that Iranians have struggled for a century to secure the freedoms many western countries enjoy.

Tensions between Iran and Britain are running high.

Britain, along with the United States and many other countries, suspects Iran wants to develop nuclear technology to build a bomb, a charge the Islamic state denies.

The issue is now with the United Nations Security Council which could eventually introduce sanctions against Iran.

Britain, along with most of the world, has voiced shock at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

"Reaction and repression at home is matched by confrontation abroad," Straw will say, noting that Iran is alone in opposing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Having the nuclear issue in the UN Security Council marks a new phase in diplomatic efforts, not an end of diplomacy, Straw will say, adding that the West does not want to stop Iran generating nuclear power.

It is up to Iran to build confidence by resuming a suspension of sensitive nuclear work and cooperating with the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, Straw will say.