G7 leaders condemn Iran, warn of risk of escalation

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni speaks during a press conference in Belgrade

ROME (Reuters) -Leaders of the G7 nations condemned Iran's attack on Israel and said on Sunday they would work to try to prevent an "uncontrollable regional escalation" in the Middle East.

Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the G7, had called a meeting of G7 heads after U.S. President Joe Biden pledged a coordinated diplomatic response to the unprecedented drone and missile attack launched overnight by Iran.

"With its actions, Iran has further stepped toward the destabilization of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation. This must be avoided," a statement issued by Italy said.

The G7 leaders, who spoke for just under an hour on a video conference, called for Iran to exercise restraint.

"In this spirit, we demand that Iran and its proxies cease their attacks, and we stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilizing initiatives," it said.

President Biden has warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the U.S. will not take part in a counter-offensive against Iran if Israel decides to retaliate.

Iran launched the attack in response to a suspected Israeli strike on its consulate in Syria on April 1 that killed top Revolutionary Guards commanders and followed months of clashes between Israel and Iran's regional allies, triggered by the war in Gaza.

The G7 statement also pledged to work "towards an immediate and sustainable ceasefire" in Gaza after more than six months of fighting.

The G7 groups the United States, Canada, Italy, Britain, France, Germany and Japan, as well as the European Union. Its foreign ministers are scheduled to meet over April 17-19 on the Italian island of Capri.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante and Keith Weir; Editing by Angus MacSwan and David Holmes)