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Blaming the West

June 23, 2009

As Iranian forces continue their violent crackdown on opposition protesters in the wake of recent presidential elections, authorities in Tehran have accused Western governments of fueling the unrest.

In Berlin, a masked man protests the aftermath of the Iranian elections
Berlin was one of several European cities to see protests over the weekendImage: AP

World leaders are calling for an end to state violence against opposition demonstrators, who have been staging almost daily rallies to protest alleged fraud in the June 12 election which confirmed anti-Western hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to another four years in office.

Iran has ruled out scrapping the vote despite the continuing protests both at home and abroad.

"In the recent presidential election, we witnessed no major fraud or breach," the spokesman for election watchdog the Guardians Council, Abbasali Kadkhodai, said on English-language Press TV on Tuesday.

Saying that the judiciary intends to make an example of the "rioters," Iranian authorities have also accused Western governments, particulary Britain and the United States, of meddling in the country's affairs.

On Tuesday, Iran also charged United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of interfering in its affairs after Ban called for an immediate halt to the use of force against civilians in Iran.

Iran on Monday accused global broadcasters, the BBC and Voice of America, of seeking to break up the Islamic Republic with their coverage of the post-election unrest.

Tehran's foreign ministry spokesman, Haasan Ghashghavi, said the US cable news network, CNN, and the BBC, had set up a "situation room and a psychological war room."

On Tuesday, it was reported that Iranian state television had begun broadcasting statments by people it said had been arrested during violence over the weekend. The people, whose identities were obscured, said that they were provoked by networks including the BBC and VOA.

A female supporter reacts, as tens of thousands of supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gather in Vali Asr square for a rally attended by the president, in Tehran, Iran Sunday, June 14, 2009.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed the unrest, the worst in a decade in Tehran, as "not important."Image: AP

Foreign media have been restricted in their reporting of the crisis, with bans on covering demonstrations. On Sunday, the authorities in Tehran expelled the BBC's chief correspondent in Iran, Jon Leyne, and ordered the closure of Al-Arabiya television's office. Newsweek has also reported that one of its journalists has been detained without charge.

European reactions

The EU's foreign policy coordinator, Javier Solana, criticized moves by Iran to crack down on foreign media trying to cover the protests, saying it was "something we cannot accept."

The Czech EU presidency summoned the Iranian charge d'affaires in Prague and "categorically rejected Iran's claim that positions expressed by the EU and its members states constitute illegitimate interference in Iran's internal affairs."

Germany said it invited Iran's ambassador to clarify the charges of interference, which Berlin said it "found disconcerting."

Over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had called for a recount of the June 12 election that returned Ahmadinejad to power.

West aligns

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen HarperImage: AP

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, adopting one of the toughest stances on Iran of any Western leader, condemned on Monday what he said was Tehran's totally unacceptable use of "brute force and intimidation" to deal with demonstrators.

"Canada calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately cease the use of violence against its own people, to release all political prisoners and journalists and to conduct a full and transparent investigation into allegations of fraud in the presidential election," Harper said in a statement.

Sweden, which takes over the EU presidency on July 1, urged Tehran to allow its citizens the right to peaceful protests. Sweden's foreign minister, Carl Bildt, said that right was even protected by the Iranian constitution.

Japan's foreign minister, Hirofumi Nakasone, called on Tehran to "respect opinions" and avoid "situations that produce casualties."

In Washington, the White House condemned the Iranian government for its "violent and unjust" actions against its people. President Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said it was clear that "justice has not been served." He added that the president had been moved by the passion expressed particularly by women to stand up for their rights.

Obama, however, has faced sharp criticism from opposition Republican lawmakers who say he has not spoken forcefully enough against the injustices in Iran.

Editor: Andreas Illmer