Ahmadinejad tells US, UK to butt out

Larijani says US showed "deceitful meaning of change" after Obama calls Iranians to halt violence.

Obama makes point 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Obama makes point 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the United States and Britain on Sunday to stop interfering in the Islamic Republic's internal affairs, the ISNA news agency was cited by Reuters. "Definitely by hasty remarks you will not be placed in the circle of friendship with the Iranian nation. Therefore I advise you to correct your interfering stances," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a meeting with clerics and scholars. Many Western countries have criticized the election, which was won by Ahmadinejad according to official figures, and its aftermath. His main opponent, moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi, says the vote was rigged. The government denied the charges. Also Sunday, Iran's Parliament reiterated warnings sounded by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in which he said that leaders of the US, UK, France and Germany must not to interfere in the country's internal affairs, threatening that Iran would respond to such meddling "in other fields." Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani directed a message at US President Barack Obama, saying that he "showed the deceitful meaning of change too soon." According to Iran's ISNA news agency, Larijani called for the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Iranian Parliament to revise relations with the US, UK, France and Germany. Ahmadinejad's statements Sunday were some of his first since a post-election rally he held last weekend. His comments on Sunday came despite efforts by US President Barack Obama continued to avoid being seen as meddling in Iranian politics. Even as Obama came under more forceful criticism that he should speak out more strongly on behalf of the protesters, on Friday the US president took pains to avoid directly confronting the ayatollahs. The US House and Senate passed resolutions backing the protesters' actions, and Republicans have seized on the text to charge that Obama has not done enough to stand with the Iranian people as they challenge the election results in which the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner despite widespread reports of irregularities. "We stand with those who would look to peaceful resolution of conflict and we believe that the voices of people have to be heard, that that's a universal value that the American people stand for and this administration stands for," Obama said, echoing his earlier statements on the chaotic and at times violent protests. "I'm very concerned, based on some of the tenor and tone of the statements that have been made, that the government of Iran recognize that the world is watching." Obama responded to charges that he has not said enough on the protesters' behalf by saying, "The last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That's what they do. That's what we're already seeing. We shouldn't be playing into that." On Saturday, perhaps in response to congressional criticism, Obama challenged Iran's government to halt "all violent and unjust actions against its own people." He said in a statement that the universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected and that the US "stands with all who seek to exercise those rights." White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration welcomed the House resolution and described it as reflecting "the words of President Obama throughout the week." Yet the House resolution explicitly "condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the Government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication". The congressional resolutions also express support for "all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law." And the news Web site Politico reported that the administration had pushed members of Congress to tone down the language. "We made it clear that we didn't want to make the US a foil in a debate that has nothing to do with us," a senior administration official was quoted as saying. "This is a debate among Iranians." The resolutions were backed by Republicans who have increasingly attacked the Obama administration for not supporting the protesters more emphatically. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the US House of Representatives, was among those voicing concern. "Their silence on the issue of human rights violations is very troubling to me. America has a moral responsibility to stand up for human rights around the world and to condemn the abuses that are occurring in Teheran today," he told AFP. He is calling for immediate passage of new Iran sanctions legislation to "send a message very quickly to our allies and the rest of the world that we mean to live by our commitments that we do not want Iran to become a nuclear power." Cantor's words were echoed in a flurry of editorials and columns by former Bush administration officials and many other voices on the right of the political spectrum. At the same time, a new Pew poll found that Americans are more concerned about Iran's nuclear program that at any point in the past year, with 69 percent of Americans believing it is a "major threat," up from 62% a year ago. Islamic extremist groups were seen as the most pressing, with 78% agreeing they constitute a major threat (as opposed to 72% who said that a year ago.) The next greatest concern was the North Korean nuclear program, which 72% say is a grave threat, a jump from 55% a year ago. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict came in last on the survey's list, with only 49% seeing it as a serious threat to the US. In terms of Obama's handling of the Middle East, 62% said he was striking the right balance between Israel and the Palestinians, while 6% thought he was favoring Israel and 17% thought he was favoring the Palestinians. There was a significant partisan divide in the answers, as only 43% of Republicans thought he was striking the right balance in comparison to 78% of Democrats, while the 36% of the former thought he was favoring Palestinians in comparison to only 4% of the latter who did. In both groups, 5% of respondents thought Obama was favoring Israel too much. Overall, 57% of Americans approve of his foreign policy approach, with 31% disapproving and 12% saying they didn't know. The telephone survey was conducted of 1,502 adults between June 10 and 14 and had margins of error for different demographic groups that ranged from 3% to 5%.