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Iran's Guardian Council Affirms Vote Result

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.

At a small gathering in the house of an Iranian writer, people appeared resigned about the news.

"What difference was the council going to make?" one young woman asked a group of depressed-looking friends. No one offered an answer. Instead, people listed colleagues who have been arrested since the election.

"Why would they bring him in?" one man said of a journalist who was picked up in recent days. "I don't care if I am next," another man said defiantly. "What will they do to me?"

The uncertainty of the future dominated the conversation in the smoke-filled room. Some talked about spending time in the countryside. Others were thinking of leaving Iran altogether.

"There is no future here for independent-thinking, cultured people," the writer said. "Things are going to change very rapidly from now on, for the worse."

Iranian state media say more than 650 people are detained in connection with "riots" after the election. But the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights says that more than 2,000 people have been arrested and that hundreds are missing.

On Sunday, nine Iranian employees of the British Embassy were picked up on accusations of involvement in street protests. Iranian authorities said Monday that five were released and that the others were still being questioned. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the arrests "unacceptable" and "unjustified."

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said of the Guardian Council's action, "Obviously, they have a huge credibility gap with their own people as to the election process, and I don't think that's going to disappear by any finding of a limited review of a relatively small number of ballots." She added that "these internal matters are for Iranians themselves to address, and we hope that they will be given the opportunity to do so in a peaceful way that respects the right of expression."

Asked if the United States would recognize Ahmadinejad as the democratically elected president of Iran, Clinton told reporters, "You know, we're going to take this a day at a time. We're going to watch and carefully assess what we see happening."

Results released by the Interior Ministry on June 13 showed Ahmadinejad with nearly 63 percent of the vote, followed by Mousavi with less than 34 percent.

In an early indication Monday that the recount was unlikely to show anything other than an Ahmadinejad landslide, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said that when the ballots were counted again in one Tehran district, the incumbent had more votes than in the initial tally.

Branigin reported from Washington.

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