PARIS — Change in Iran must come from the Iranian people alone, not from abroad, French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday.
In a speech to foreign diplomats, Macron said that “today there is a crisis in Iran. This crisis (comes from) the free expression of the Iranian people.”
“Our role is to be on the lookout, demanding, scrupulous” to ensure that protesters’ rights are not abused.
He appeared to distance himself from U.S. President Donald Trump’s encouragement of protesters who began taking to the streets of Iranian towns and cities a week ago, and from the notion that a foreign hand is behind the action — as Iran has claimed.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday, “Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government.” He added: “You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!”
The French president said that in no country can a “durable, stable situation be thought up in an office in Paris, Brussels or Washington. It (must) take place within the country, at the heart of civil society.”
The Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo, contended in a letter Wednesday that Washington was intervening “in a grotesque way in Iran’s internal affairs.” He said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were personally stirring up trouble.
On Thursday, Iran’s prosecutor general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, directly named a CIA official as the “main designer” of the protests. However, the Trump administration has denied a role in the protests.
The deadly unrest in Iran began one week ago. Hundreds have been arrested, social media apps have been blocked and pro-government rallies have quickly followed. Iran’s interior minister said Thursday that only some 42,000 people took part in the protests.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian postponed a planned visit to Tehran this week.
Macron noted that he spoke two days ago with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and told him that “France is always anxious to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, freedom of conscience and freedom to demonstrate. … We will continue to ensure that these rights are totally respected.”
Macron said France and other countries have a clear role to play in reining in Iran’s ballistic missile program to ensure that neither medium- nor long-range missiles activity is “aggressive.”
The French leader also said he wants to see the emergence of an accord limiting Iran’s regional presence that is considered destabilizing, ticking off its actions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah notably fought in Syria at the side of President Bashar Assad, backs a rebel group fighting in Yemen and has had a prime political role in Lebanon, where it is based.
Such actions, Macron said, “destabilize the region … and contribute to maintaining elements of high tension.”