August 9, 2011 / 5:12 PM / 6 years ago

Iran chides UK over riots

<p>EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi</p>

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran urged Britain Tuesday to avoid using force to suppress riots that have rocked London, mischievously turning the tables on Western critics of its own human rights record.

In other reaction to the wave of looting and rioting sweeping the British capital, France and Austria issued travel advisories to their citizens and a Belgian lawmaker said he feared copycat violence spreading to his own country.

“It must be weird for Londoners to read travel advisory from foreign countries against the UK; usually the other way around,” tweeted Gulf social commentator Mishaal al-Gergawi from a region that has witnessed a lot of civic unrest in the Arab Spring.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the British government should “exercise restraint,” avoid using violence and instead “talk to protesters and listen to their requests,” the official IRNA news agency reported.

For many years Iran has been on the receiving end of criticism from Western countries over its human rights record, especially the crushing of demonstrations after the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

A member of Iran’s parliament, Hossein Ebrahimi, told the semi-official Fars news agency that Britain should allow a delegation of human rights monitors to examine the situation.

The British riots broke out Saturday in a district of northern London when a protest over the police shooting of a suspect two days earlier led to violence.

The riots in London are the worst violence in the British capital in decades and politicians and police have firmly blamed the violence on criminals and hooligans.

Iran’s state-run rolling news channel led with dramatic pictures from London, with one announcer describing the scenes as “civil war.”

An official in Egypt, where unrest earlier this year ousted veteran President Hosni Mubarak, also could not resist making an ironic jab at a Western country that normally prides itself on its respect for the rule of law and for human rights.

“We will send Egyptian NGOs (to London) to check it out,” said the official, in a reference to Westerners who monitored Mubarak’s attempts to quash protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

COULD RIOTS SPREAD?

France and Austria urged their nationals to exercise caution when visiting Britain, especially city centers after dark.

Italy’s foreign ministry said it had set up a 24 hour hotline for Italian nationals affected by the rioting. It said it had sent warnings via social media such as Facebook and Twitter and also by mobile phone messages to citizens registered on a special website that tracks Italians abroad.

The London riots could be replicated in Brussels, local MP Alain Destexhe told Belgian newspaper La Capitale Tuesday.

“It is possible that this might happen in the more or less near future,” he told the newspaper.

A potent mix of high youth unemployment in Brussels -- reaching 50 percent in some parts of the Belgian capital -- years of badly managed immigration policy and demographic pressures contribute to the risk of riots, Destexhe said.

“The police do not dare do anything for fear of inciting an uprising,” he said.

In France, which was rocked by urban riots in 2005, Christophe Barbier, chief editor of weekly French magazine L‘Express, echoed those concerns.

“Who can be sure that the riots in London and surrounding areas could not happen in France? We’re not out of harm’s way because we have the same youth: unintegrated, unemployed and victim of the crisis,” he tweeted.

“This issue should be discussed in the presidential election campaign and new solutions found. This youth needs an economic future.”

Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian and Robin Pomeroy in Tehran, Christopher Le Coq in Brussels; Brian Love in Paris; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Jon Hemming

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