TRIESTE, Italy, June 26 (UPI) -- The Group of Eight foreign ministers harshly condemned post-election violence in Iran, urging Tehran to ensure that the outcome of the disputed presidential election reflects the will of the people.
The foreign ministers, meeting in the northeastern Italian city of Trieste, said Friday they "deplored" the violent crackdown on demonstrations that led to killings of civilians. "We express our solidarity with those who have suffered repression while peacefully demonstrating and urge Iran to respect fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression," they said.
The foreign ministers from United States, Britain, Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Japan and Canada called on leaders of the Islamic Republic to make sure that "the will of the Iranian people is reflected in the electoral process."
Observers said the European ministers had pushed for even harsher language, namely calling on Iran to recount the votes but Russian opposition blocked such a statement.
Iranian authorities have reacted with brutal crackdowns on opposition demonstrations that have flared up all over Iran after the June 12 presidential elections. Several protesters have been killed.
Leaders agreed that diplomatic channels should be upheld to convince Iran to give up nuclear enrichment, which the West fears could be used to secretly manufacture an atomic bomb. A recent U.S. offer for direct negotiations shouldn't be turned down, the foreign ministers said.
"We sincerely hope that Iran will seize this opportunity to give diplomacy a chance to find a negotiated solution to the nuclear issue," the ministers said.
For the past six years, Britain, France and Germany have been mediating between Tehran and Washington in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Observers say the diplomatic crisis with Iran may lead to a harsher negotiation course in the conflict.
Italy had invited Iran to attend the meeting as a special guest but Tehran let pass a deadline to reply. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said Italy had failed to prepare expert talks "between delegates from both sides to ensure the optimum level of achievement in the conference," Iran's state-owned Press TV reports.
The Islamic Republic's leaders have repeatedly lashed out at governments in the United States and Europe, urging them not to interfere with Iran's domestic affairs. Tehran has blamed several Western governments for fueling the post-vote tensions and directly accused Britain of influencing the vote by sending in spies.
Maryam Rajavi, the head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exiled opposition group, welcomed the declaration but called on the G8 to impose comprehensive sanctions on the Iranian regime.
"Making statements does not suffice and time for action has arrived," she said in a statement. "The era of appeasement, negotiations and concessions vis-a-vis the Iranian regime has passed."