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Senior State Department Official Says Arab Uprisings Could Affect Iran

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Michael Posner
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Michael Posner
WASHINGTON -- In an interview with RFE/RL, a top U.S. State Department official said the uprisings in the Middle East could have an impact on Iran, which experienced its own mass antigovernment protests in 2009.

Michael Posner, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, said Iran is currently experiencing "a particularly grim moment," with no sign of reform or "relaxation" in its crackdown on activists.

Posner said there is huge discontent and frustration among young Iranians.

"I believe that there is something to all of the change in the region having a ripple effect on Iran," Posner says. "There are clearly people watching their televisions and on the Internet seeing what's going on in Syria, in Egypt, in Tunisia, etc., and they're undoubtedly thinking our time has to come."

Posner also said the United States has been "quietly" working with Iranian activists on issues surrounding Internet freedom, including training them in the use of antifiltering tools.

He said the United States "goes out of its way" to monitor the human rights situations in Iran and to speak out about abuses.

Posner made the comments ahead of the April 8 release of the State Department's annual human rights report.