Obama ‘deeply troubled’ by Iran violence after elections

June 16th, 2009 - 10:04 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, June 16 (DPA) US President Barack Obama said he was “deeply troubled” by Iran’s violent protests brought on by a disputed election, but said the Islamic country was free to pick its own president.
Speaking for the first time since Iran’s election Friday, Obama said it would have been wrong for him to remain “silent” amid the reports of violence in Tehran and other major cities.

“It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be,” Obama said after a meeting at the White House with Italian President Silvio Berlusconi. But he did say supporters of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi “feel betrayed” by the result.

Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the landslide winner of Friday’s election, sparking days of violent protests. His main opponent Moussavi has alleged fraud and called for the vote to be nullified.

Hundreds of thousands protested in Tehran on Monday in support of Moussavi, ignoring a ban on the march by Iran’s Interior Ministry. At least two demonstrators were reportedly shot during the protest, but it was unclear who was to blame.

“I am deeply troubled by the violence that I’ve been seeing,” Obama said, telling reporters that the rights of people to “peacefully dissent” must be respected.

Moussavi’s supporters believe the vote was rigged. The country’s top Guardian Council has reportedly agreed to investigate Moussavi’s claims.

Obama said he had been “inspired” by the debate and participation by Iranians in the run-up to the election. But there “appears to be a sense on the part of people who were so hopeful and so engaged …who now feel betrayed.”

US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly earlier Monday said the US had doubts about the election results.

“I think there has been doubt cast on the outcome of the elections,” Kelly told reporters in Washington.

Obama’s administration, which has sought to engage Iran and ease tensions between the two powers, has been cautious in its response to the violence and allegations of voter fraud.

Obama also said he respected Iran’s sovereignty and would continue to engage with Ahmadinejad if he does emerge as the undisputed victor.

“I have always felt that, as odious a I feel some of president Ahmadinejad’s statements (are), as deep as the differences that exist between the United States and Iran on core issues, the use of tough hard-headed diplomacy, diplomacy without illusions, is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of national security interests.

“We will continue to pursue a tough direct dialogue between our two countries.”

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