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Western Powers Urge Iran to Allow Peaceful Protests

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton (file)

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has called on Iran to allow anti-government demonstrations as long as the protests are peaceful.

She commented Tuesday, a day after witnesses in Iran said security forces fired tear gas and paintball guns to disperse activists who had gathered in the capital for an unsanctioned rally.

In a statement released by her office, Ashton said freedom of expression and the right to assemble peacefully are "fundamental rights" which need to be respected.

France has condemned Iran's crackdown on protesters. Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Tuesday his government opposes the violence committed against demonstrators and has called for detained protesters to be freed.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the Iranian demonstrators as courageous. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Tehran to exercise restraint and allow people to freely express their views.