G8 meeting at work on shared document on Iran

Iran Materials 26 June 2009 14:16 (UTC +04:00)

Foreign ministers from Group of Eight countries meeting in Italy were working to smooth over differences and hammer out a joint document Friday addressing Iran's violent crackdown on protesters, AP reported.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the group was working on a document.

"It is clear that positions aren't the same," he was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

Italy had sought to send a tough message to Tehran after days of violent clashes with demonstrators who say that Iran's June 12 vote was marred by massive fraud. Italian officials at the meeting, however, also stressed the need not to interfere and not to further isolate Iran.

Russia has said it backs the results that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Trieste that "nobody wants to condemn" Tehran and that isolating Iran would be the wrong approach, according to ANSA. Moscow hosted Ahmadinejad at a regional summit a few days after the election.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who plays host in Trieste, insisted that any statement coming out of the meeting would be a "good document," as he sought to play down any disagreements between participating countries.

Frattini met with Lavrov Thursday afternoon and then opened the meeting with a working dinner. The delegates reconvened Friday morning in a 19th-century Palazzo.

"There is no fracture. All thorny issues are the object of negotiations," said Maurizio Massari, the Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman. "There is a shared concern over events in Tehran and the invitation to a peaceful solution of the political crisis."

He said Italy did not want to get into the details of whether a re-count or re-election would be necessary.

President Barack Obama condemned the violence against protesters this week and lent his strongest support yet to their accusations the hardline victory was a fraud. But the United States does not want to become a scapegoat for Iran's cleric-led government.

With U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton grounded in Washington with a broken elbow, William Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, is heading the American delegation.

Also on the agenda Friday are talks on regional security in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with delegates looking at border management and illicit trafficking.

Italy originally invited Iran to attend the three-day gathering as a special guest, arguing that it could play an important role in talks on Afghan stabilization. But Rome retracted the invitation after Iran failed to respond, and amid concerns over the violence in the streets of Tehran.

Attending the talks on Afghan stabilization is U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, as well as important regional players such as the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Also meeting Friday on the sidelines of the summit is the Mideast Quartet - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - to try to help move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward. U.S. Mideast envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are among the participants.

A range of Arab League nations will join in a follow-on session Friday afternoon. Israel was not invited; the Foreign Ministry said that decision was taken by the Quartet, not Italy.