Washington briefing: Obama condemns crackdown in Iran, but says he “respects its sovereignty”

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday June 26, 2009

President Obama discusses Iran during a press conference, June 23, 2009. Chuck Kennedy / White House Photo

Washington - As the crackdown on antigovernment protestors intensified in Iran, President Barack Obama condemned Tehran, but insisted that "the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran" and that it was up to Iranians to determine their future.

In Tehran, security forces appeared to have regained control of the streets, after using tear gas and occasionally live ammunition to disperse demonstrations that have continued virtually nonstop since the June 12 presidential election. At least 17 people have died in the process and thousands, including dozens of intellectuals and journalists, are believed to have been jailed.

The post-election standoff in Iran pitted two groups with roots in the 1979 revolution against each other, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on one side, and two ex-presidents, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami, and former prime minister and the main election challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi on the other.

The election results, rejected by the opposition, have been formally endorsed by Iran's Guardians' Council, confirming that the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad camp has been able to retain the upper hand inside the political establishment.

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