London, Asharq Al-Awsat- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asserted that his country is convinced that dialogue remains the best way for dealing with Iran, a stand that is similar to the one expressed by US President Barack Obama two days ago when he stressed that Washington was committed to the policy of dialogue with Tehran. Speaking at a meeting with a limited number of foreign correspondents in which Asharq al-Awsat took part, Brown said “we continue to believe that action that includes Russia, China, the United States, and the EU is something that should be invested in so as to obtain good results” for persuading Iran to abandon the possession of nuclear weapons. Brown did not attach much importance to the statement of US Vice President Joe Biden about Washington’s inability to prevent Israel from attacking Iran saying he was answering a hypothetical question.
Speaking on the eve of his departure to Italy to participate in the G8 summit, Brown added that “the Iranian people should be persuaded, through dialogue, that if they want to acquire civilian nuclear energy and remain within the international community, then they should maintain their previous stand and renounce the nuclear weapon.”
Despite the tension in relations between Britain and Iran following the arrest of eight employees of the British Embassy in Tehran, Britain and its European allies continue to consider dialogue the best way for dealing with Iran. But Brown stressed that Britain was continuing to ask for the international community’s support for the release of those unjustifiably arrested. Iran had released seven of the eight detainees.
Iran imposes itself on the G8 summit which starts today in the Italian city of L’Aquila and the summit’s final communiqué is expected to include a clause on the united European stand opposing Iran’s continued detention of a British Embassy employee. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the summit’s host, announced before few days that the G8 leaders might agree to impose new sanctions on Iran. It might be however difficult to adopt it in view of Russia’s opposition. The adherence of Britain, the European countries, and the United States to continuing the dialogue with Iran raises questions about the international community’s willingness to recognize the legitimacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while the election results remain the subject of intensive argument in the country.
In reply to Asharq al-Awsat question about this, Brown said the decision on the presidential election belongs to the Iranians “and not to any external power” and added: “We held negotiations with Iran for a period of time and we are determined to continue to work with our other partners, the Europeans and United States, in the international arena so as to reach the best results for the world.”
In addition to Iran, the eight leaders and five other countries will discuss issues related to developments in the global economic crisis, food aid to Africa to tackle starvation, and the greenhouse effects. Speaking at the meeting which was held at 10 Downing Street, Brown said the leaders would discuss in Italy the progress made during the year in the economic crisis following the decisions taken at the G20 summit which was held in London in April and added: “I am not satisfied (with the progress) and alert about the economic situation in the world.” He then pointed out that “it is important to see evidence from the banks in the world that they have started to implement the necessary steps, are applying transparency, and have resumed giving loans again.” But the discussion of the economic crisis will not focus only on the banks. Brown said: “In April, we had to deal with the global crisis caused by the banks’ failure. Today at this summit, we have to discuss the challenges of resuming the development in the world’s economies. This means that the banks should give loans and trade should resume. Protectionism should be applied when there is a need and the prices of commodities should remain at a level that ensures continued development and private and public investments because investment is the basis on which many countries rely. We have to do something about an extra30 million unemployed workers in the world. It is our duty to help them.”
The discussion will also deal with the fluctuations in oil prices. Brown said their instability “is unacceptable” and “oil prices rose by 75 percent during the past weeks” and added: “No one benefits if oil prices remain fluctuating and unstable. We saw the price of oil turn from $150 a barrel to $35 and now to $75. We saw a level of instability in oil prices in the world and this is unacceptable.” The British prime minister underlined the need to hold a “better” dialogue between exporters and consumers “and understand the need of consumers and exporters” and also said: “We need to help each other to invest in alternative sources of energy.” He then proposed that oil producing countries should invest in the alternative energy sectors and said “we need a strategy for the future that reduces our dependence on oil and makes its prices more stable. This is why Britain is investing in nuclear and renewable energy and the supply and demand balance in Britain’s energy sector will change during the next few years.” He went on to point out that “there is no clear evidence that the world economy is improving to the point where demand for oil has risen” and said “we will be ready when we see exploitation but I will not say now how we will respond.”
Among the other issues that will also be on the discussion table in L’Aquila are those of poverty and starvation. The number of those facing starvation in the world has risen by 110 million and the total has reached 1.1billion. Brown said this problem can be solved by increasing food aid and helping the Africans to produce food. He stressed that the economic crisis “cannot be an excuse for us to renege on our duties toward the poor but these times should be a strong motive for reminding us of our duties toward the poor. We must ensure for Africa the means for feeding itself.”
Britain and the United States will present proposals for combating hunger in the world and Brown expressed his hope that his proposals would be accepted and said: “In future, I believe that Africa could feed the world if we gave it the necessary investment in agriculture so that it can feed itself and export the remaining food to the world.”