Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Saturday, 20 March 2010

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband issues Iran message

David Miliband
David Miliband said the UK was not trying to choose Iran's government

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said he hopes Iranians will be able to freely express their own aspirations in the next 12 months.

His call came in a message to mark the Iranian New Year this weekend.

Mr Miliband said it was not a coded message backing Iran's opposition, but an attempt to speak out against the denial of "basic human rights".

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has said that Washington's offer of dialogue with Iran still stands.

It is the second time President Obama has recorded a video message for the festival of Nowruz, a 12-day holiday celebrating the beginning of the New Year on the Persian calendar.

There is nothing coded at all about my message
David Miliband
Foreign secretary

Last year he became the first US leader for decades to reach out directly to Iran's people and government, offering a "new beginning" in US-Iranian relations.

The 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was disputed by the defeated candidates, prompting millions of Iranians to take to the streets and demand a re-run.

The BBC's Tehran correspondent, Jon Leyne - reporting from London - said the Iranian government is likely to read Mr Miliband's message as a coded message of support for the opposition, or at least for the principles they say they stand for.

But the foreign secretary denied that he had issued a call for rebellion.

Mr Miliband told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There is nothing coded at all about my message.

"What I am saying is that the Iranian people should be able to demonstrate, to express their views in an open way without fearing being beaten, imprisoned, shot in the streets or, in some cases, executed in show trials".

Mr Miliband said it was "not about the British government trying to choose the government of Iran", which he said was "a matter for the Iranian people".

However, he said it was a "legitimate matter of international concern" that Iranians were unable to assert their "basic human rights".

The foreign secretary said it was right to speak out about the denial of human rights to the people of Iran by a regime which he described as being "nervous" and "paranoid about its future".

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