West clashes with Khamenei's Iran over crackdown

LONDON- European leaders and US lawmakers on Friday condemned a crackdown on protests in Iran after the country's supreme leader rejected foreign criticism of post-election violence.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the number of arrests during peaceful protests over the disputed re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And the White House denied there were any differences between US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden over how to react to the street protests.

West clashes with Khamenei's Iran over crackdown
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told tens of thousands of people in Tehran Friday: "Top diplomats of several Western countries who talked to us so far within diplomatic formalities are showing their real face and most of all, the British government."
In response, Britain summoned Iran's ambassador to the Foreign Office but its charge d'affaires went instead "in the ambassador's absence," a British official said.
"We made clear to the Iranian charge that the supreme leader's comments were unacceptable and not based in fact," the Foreign Office spokesman added.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said his government would carry on cricitising Iran. "The whole world is looking at Iran," he added.
Brown was speaking from the European summit at Brussels, where he and other leaders discussed the clampdown.
The leaders "urged the Iranian authorities to ensure that all Iranians are granted the right to assemble and to express themselves peacefully," said a summit statement.
"The authorities should refrain from the use of force against peaceful demonstrations," it added.
On Tuesday already, the Iranian government summoned the British and Czech ambassadors to protest against the British and EU reactions to deadly post-election unrest in Tehran.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday called on Iran not to "go beyond the point of no return."
Europe should not give the impression that it was interfering in Iran's domestic affairs. But he added: "I am always in favour of dialogue with Iran, but when we have to condemn, we condemn."
In Washington, US lawmakers threw their support behind Iranian demonstrators.
"We cannot stand silent in the face of this assault on human freedom and dignity," said Democrat Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee.
Berman and Republican Mike Pence put forward the resolution overwhelmingly adopted by 405 votes in favour and one against in the House of Representatives.
The text supports "all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law" and "condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the government of Iran and pro-government militias..."
Sources familiar with Biden's position said he had privately called it a "mistake" when Obama on Tuesday played down differences between Ahmadinejad and rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.
But the White House denied there were any differences between Obama and Biden over the issue. To suggest otherwise was "incorrect," spokesman James Carney told AFP.
Obama has stressed that universal rights to protest peacefully should be respected in Iran, but has refused to pick sides in the showdown between Ahmadinejad and his challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi -- infuriating some opposition Republicans.
He has warned that US "meddling" in Iran's internal politics would be counterproductive, and vowed to push forward his engagement policy with Iran.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay expressed concern over the use of "excessive force" to quell the Tehran protests in which at least seven people have been killed, according to state radio.
Rights group Amnesty International said Friday it believed up to 10 people may have been killed in post-election protests in Iran.

Friday, June 19th 2009

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