March 12, 2006

UK to urge Europe to help Iranians win more freedom

By Madeline Chambers

LONDON (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 program, British
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 organizations 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.

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 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 organizations and
non-governmental organizations 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.