World split over Iran poll outcome

The world’s big powers split yesterday over whether to recognise Mahmoud AhmadiNejad as the victor of Iran’s presidential election, as France denounced electoral “fraud” while Russian and Chinese leaders personally welcomed him to a regional summit.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, US president, came under domestic pressure to take a tougher stance on the disputed election. Commenting on Iran, he said: “People’s voices should be heard and not suppressed.”

The big powers have previously struggled to reach agreement at the United Nations on measures against Tehran’s nuclear programme. But this month’s elections – and questions over the legitimacy of the result – have further highlighted international divisions. The split came as both sides in the Iranian election took to the streets of Tehran again yesterday with mass rallies. State television reported that more than 1m supporters attended a proAhmadi-Nejad rally.

Witnesses said several thousand people took part in a counter demonstration in support of Mir-Hossein Moussavi, the moderate presidential candidate. But due to a ban on foreign media covering the rallies – introduced yesterday – it was impossible to judge the size of the Moussavi rally. Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president, described the election as “dreadful news”, according to AFP. “The extent of the fraud is proportional to the violent reaction,” he said, adding he was “worried” about the situation.

The European Union had previously expressed “serious concern” about the use of force in the election. Yesterday, Tehran condemned the EU’s “interventionist and insulting” statement. Mr Ahmadi-Nejad received a different response in Yekaterinburg, a Russian city where he was welcomed to a summit of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, a grouping in which Iran has observer status.

“The heads of SCO member states congratulated Ahmadi-Nejad on his re-election,” said a spokeswoman for Russia.

The Obama administration has been careful not to take a leading role in the electoral aftermath, amid fears heavy-handed US intervention could complicate both the opposition’s attempt to prevail in Iran’s domestic debate and the negotiations with Tehran Mr Obama himself has long sought.

However, it was reported yesterday that the US state department had asked operators of Twitter to delay planned maintenance of the online messaging service in order to let Iranians communicate while their leaders banned other media.


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