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Administration Rejects Iran's 'Interfering' Claims

Thursday, 18 Jun 2009 08:28 AM

WASHINGTON – The United States rejected claims it was interfering with the post-election tumult in Iran, saying President Barack Obama would raise concerns about, but not meddle in, Iranian politics.

"As the president has said, we are not interfering with the debate that Iranians are having about their election and its aftermath," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

"You know, this is a debate about Iranians and about Iran's future," he said.

"It's up to the government of Iran to resolve these questions and these concerns that the Iranian people have and that the world has in a credible way, in a transparent way, and in a peaceful way."

At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama would continue to express his concerns about the election and the subsequent political unrest.

Gibbs noted that the president had discussed universal principles such as the right to peacefully demonstrate and stressed they should be observed in Iran.

"The president will continue to express those concerns and ensure that we are not meddling," said Gibbs.

Earlier, Iran protested to the Swiss envoy in Tehran over "interfering remarks" by US officials on last Friday's presidential election, state television reported.

Washington has had no diplomatic ties with Tehran for three decades and its interests are represented by the Swiss embassy.

Obama said Tuesday that he had concerns about the conduct of the election and subsequent violence, but said that US "meddling" in Iranian affairs could be counterproductive.

Washington would still pursue "tough diplomacy" towards Iran over its nuclear drive, but has been walking a fine political line designed to avoid becoming a "political football" in Iran, Obama said.

The White House also downplayed reports that the State Department had intervened to stop the microblogging service Twitter, which has been carrying many eyewitness reports of protests in Iran, from scheduling a shutdown for maintenance that would have coincided with daytime hours in Tehran.

Gibbs described the State Department's role as having been undertaken by "an employee in some discussions with Twitter about the importance of social networking and maintenance."

But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the request to Twitter, which has emerged as a vital tool to help protesters chronicle events in Iran in the face of a media and Internet crackdown.

"We promote the right of free expression," the chief US diplomat told reporters.

"And it is the case that one of the means of expression, the use of Twitter, is a very important one, not only to the Iranian people but now increasingly to people around the world, and most particularly to young people," Clinton added.

"I think keeping that line of communications open and enabling people to share information, particularly at a time when there was not many other sources of information, is an important expression of the right to speak out and to be able to organize," she said.

Iran's opposition stepped up its challenge to the Islamic regime on Wednesday, holding another rally even as the authorities cracked down hard on the media to try to contain the biggest crisis since the 1979 revolution.

Tens of thousands of supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi took part in what was billed as a "silent" protest rally, marching through central Tehran, witnesses said.

Mousavi, a moderate former premier, has demanded a re-run of the election after official results gave outright victory in the first round to hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

© Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.


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