Iran's Ahmadinejad Demands Apology From Obama

After a hotly contested election pitting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against leading challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, the government declared Ahmadinejad the winner on June 13. Mousavi's supporters took to the streets to protest the results, and were met with harsh security crackdowns.
By Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 26, 2009

TEHRAN, June 25 -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at President Obama on Thursday, warning him against "interfering" in Iranian affairs and demanding an apology for criticism of a government crackdown on demonstrators protesting alleged electoral fraud.

Despite an increasingly harsh response to the protests, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi pledged to continue challenging official results that showed a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad in Iran's June 12 presidential election. He vowed to resist growing pressure to end his campaign and said he remains determined to prove that those who rigged the election are also responsible for the violence unleashed on opposition protesters.

The two rivals issued their dueling statements -- neither mentioning the other by name -- a day after security forces broke up the latest demonstrations, then temporarily detained university professors who had met with Mousavi.

Two grand ayatollahs, leading figures in Iran's predominant Shiite Muslim faith, also waded into the fray, as did European foreign ministers from the Group of Eight world powers at a meeting in Italy.

In a speech at a petrochemical plant in southern Iran, Ahmadinejad said Obama was behaving like his predecessor, George W. Bush, and suggested that talks with the United States on Iran's nuclear program would be pointless if Obama kept up his criticism. Obama, who has expressed interest in talking to the Iranian leadership about the nuclear issue, said at a news conference Tuesday that he was "appalled and outraged" by recent violence against demonstrators, and he accused the Iranian government of trying to "distract people" by blaming the unrest on the United States and other Western nations.

"Do you want to speak with this tone?" Ahmadinejad responded Thursday, addressing Obama. "If that is your stance, then what is left to talk about?"

He added: "I hope you avoid interfering in Iran's affairs and express your regret in a way that the Iranian nation is informed of it." He asked why Obama "has fallen into this trap and repeated the comments that Bush used to make" and told the U.S. president that such an attitude "will only make you another Bush in the eyes of the people."

Ahmadinejad also praised Iran's election as demonstrating "the great capabilities and grandeur of the Iranian nation" and declared that his country is practicing true "freedom," as opposed to "this unpopular democracy which is governing America and Europe." Americans and Europeans "have no right to choose and are restricted to . . . two or three parties" in voting for their leaders, he said.

In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed Ahmadinejad's criticism. Obama has said "that there are people in Iran who want to make this not about a debate among Iranians in Iran, but about the West and the United States," Gibbs said. "And I would add President Ahmadinejad to that list of people trying to make this about the United States."

Iran's government has declared that Ahmadinejad decisively won the election with nearly 63 percent of the vote, while Mousavi received less than 34 percent and two other candidates trailed far behind. Mousavi immediately challenged the results, charging that massive fraud "reversed" the outcome and cheated him of victory.

The 67-year-old former prime minister posted a statement on his Web site Thursday saying he was being pressed to withdraw his challenge and had been severely restricted in his ability to communicate with supporters.

"However, I am not prepared to give up under the pressure of threats or personal interest," he said.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company