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World Leaders React Cautiously To Iranian Election

A number of countries have urged Iran to avoid violence against peaceful protesters.
(RFE/RL) -- Iran's presidential election results have sparked clashes in the streets of Tehran amid opposition charges of massive fraud.

But international reaction has been notably restrained, despite the fact that the election victor, incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad, is strongly disliked in the West.

"The United State has refrained from commenting on the election in Iran," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said immediately after the election results were announced on June 13.

"We obviously hope that the outcome reflects the genuine will and desire of the Iranian people."

On June 14, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Washington accepts the announced outcome of the election. Speaking on NBC television's "Meet the Press" program, he cautioned that "we just don't know enough" yet about whether the votes were counted fairly.

"I have doubts, but we're going to withhold comment until we have a thorough review of the whole process and how they react in the aftermath," Biden said.

But Biden also signaled that whatever uncertainty Washington has over the poll, it has no intention of abandoning its larger policy of seeking to open talks with Tehran.

The U.S. administration's hopes talks will help assure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and ends state support of terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizballah in the Middle East.

Europe Expresses Concern, Criticism

The European Union, which is already in talks with Iran over its nuclear program, has made a similarly cautious response to the election results.

In a statement issued on June 13, the current Czech presidency of the 27-nation European bloc said it is "concerned about alleged irregularities" during the election process and the postelection violence.

But it also said it hoped the election would clear the way for fresh discussions about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana repeated that position as he arrived for an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on June 15.

"I have been concerned by the latest images [and] news [of violence] that arrived from Tehran and hope very much that at the end of the day the will of people will be respected," Solana said.

"In any case we would like to get engaged and to continue to get engaged with the people of Iran and the leaders of Iran."

Individual European governments have been more critical, with some expressing concern that Iran's reformist movement may have been cheated by the government. Iran's Interior Ministry conducted the election process.

"We view the implications of recent events in Iran with serious concern," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in Brussels.

"The very serious doubts that have been raised about the free and fair nature of the election counting process are obviously of major concern to many people in Iran."

Germany expressed its unhappiness over the Iranian police crackdown on opposition protests of the results by summoning Tehran's ambassador in Berlin to the German Foreign Ministry.

"The election procedures leave many questions open. Reports exist stating irregularities. We ask the Iran to clarify these irregularities immediately and completely," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told journalists in Berlin on June 14.

"Besides that, the behavior of the Iranian security forces toward the protesters is unacceptable."

Steinmeier also called on Tehran to immediately make clear whether the election results "can be taken seriously or not."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said his country is "very worried" about the situation in Iran and criticized Iranian authorities' "somewhat brutal" suppression of the street protests.

The head of the Russian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachyov, said Moscow "would like to see Ahmadinejad, if his victory is not disputed, to show more wisdom and understanding towards the global community."

Congratulations From Neighbors

As European capitals appear to weigh their reaction to the Iranian poll against their desire to engage Tehran in constructive talks, most of Iran's neighboring states have opted for simply congratulating the winner.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was the first head of state to do so as he called Ahmadinejad on June 14. Karzai's office said he congratulated the Iranian people "for making a decision about their destiny" and hoped Afghanistan's ties with Iran would continue to strengthen during Ahmadinejad's second four-year term in office.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani followed shortly after with a telegram to Ahmadinejad expressing confidence that their two countries "friendly and neighborly relations" will improve in the coming years.

Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, told Ahmadinejad the victory was "an acknowledgment of your outstanding services."

Lebanon's Islamist Hizballah militia and the militant Palestinian group Hamas also sent congratulations. Both groups, have battled Israel, a country Ahmadinejad has often stated should be wiped off the map.

Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon expressed his country's concern over a second Ahmadinejad term by saying, "with the results of the election in Iran, the international community must stop a nuclear Iran and Iranian terror immediately."

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa also congratulated Ahmadinejad, saying Arab governments hope "the next term would witness progress on the relations between Iran and the Arab world and cooperation in establishing peace in the Middle East."

Serious Investigation Of Fraud Allegations?

Iran's official election results, announced on June 14, gave Ahmadinejad nearly 63 percent of the vote and only 34 percent for his leading opponent, reformist candidate Mir Hossein Musavi.

Some opposition supporters have called for the international community not to recognize the election results.

"Recognizing Iran's election as an election is a crime against democracy," one 29-year-old journalist in Tehran told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

"The countries that have fought for democracy, countries that talk about democracy, if they accept this, they're betraying themselves. This was not an election. If they accept this, it means they've put democracy under question. They've launched a coup under the cover of democracy."

The opposition candidates themselves have not made such calls. But Musavi has charged election officials with fraud, saying, "No one even imagined this much vote rigging, before the eyes of the world, by a government that says it is committed to religious justice."

He and the sole conservative candidate to run against Ahmadinejad, former head of the Revolutionary Guards Mohsen Rezai, have asked Iran's Guardians Council to rule on the legitimacy of the election. The council must formally approve the election results before they become final. The council is to issue its ruling in 10 days.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also called on the Guardians Council to investigate the opposition candidates' claims of fraud.

However, it is unclear how independently of the supreme leader the Guardians Council would act in the matter. The council is closely tied to Khamenei and he has already congratulated Ahmadinejad and called on all Iranians to support him as president-elect.