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Iran Reasserts Legitimacy of Vote, Obama Condemns Violence

Earlier this week, Iran’s powerful 12-member Guardian Council said it found “no major fraud” in the country’s June 12 election and will not annul the results, refuting days of street protests over the outcome of the vote.

Results of the poll show President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winning re-election by a landslide with 62.6 percent of the vote. Ahmadinejad’s main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has charged massive fraud in the vote.

In remarks quoted by the official IRNA news agency Friday, a spokesman for the Guardian Council said the panel had “almost finished reviewing defeated candidates’ election complaints,” which the council said earlier numbered more than 600, according to the New York Times.

“The reviews showed that the election was the healthiest since the revolution,” the spokesman said. “There were no major violations in the election.”

During a White House press conference Friday, President Barack Obama scoffed at the idea that he should apologize to Iran’s leaders for criticizing their violent crackdown on demonstrators and said it was Ahmadinejad who must answer to his own people.

Standing next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Obama said Iran’s leaders cannot hide the “outrageous” behavior of clamping down violently on their people, according to the AP.

“We see it and we condemn it,” President Obama said. Merkel added: “We will not forget this.”

Mousavi’s Web site was hacked on Friday, leaving a blank screen, as part of an apparent effort to further quash the opposition. Mousavi has sent mixed signals to his supporters in recent days, asking them not to break the law, while pledging not to drop his challenge of the election.

News reports indicated Friday that Mousavi had effectively ended his role in street protests, saying he’ll seek permits for future rallies.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered a large security detail around Mousavi, a presumed method to protect him, but likely also to restrict his movements.

Followers of Mousavi had reportedly planned Friday to remember Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman whose death during protest violence has become a flashpoint for the protest movement. Mourners will release thousands of balloons printed with the message, “Neda, you will always remain in our hearts.”

Today at Tehran University, hard-line cleric Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami reminded Iranians observing Friday prayers that the supreme leader must not be challenged because he rules according to God. He called protesters “rioters” and said they should be punished “ruthlessly and savagely.”

“Anyone who takes up arms to fight with the people, they are worthy of execution,” said Khatami. “We ask that the judiciary confront the leaders of the protests, leaders of the violations, and those who are supported by the United States and Israel strongly, and without mercy to provide a lesson for all.” Khatami has said that the rioters were to blame for Neda’s death.

Last Friday, Iran’s supreme leader defended Ahmadinejad as the rightful winner in the country’s elections and disputed any possibility that the vote was rigged.

“Some of our enemies in different parts of the world intended to depict this absolute victory, this definitive victory, as a doubtful victory,” he said. “It is your victory. They cannot manipulate it.”

Foreign ministers of the Group of Eight denounced the post-election violence from a meeting in Italy. They called for a peaceful resolution by Democratic means. Two members, Russia and China, have congratulated Ahmadinejad on his victory, but Russia’s foreign minister has spoken out against the violent measures used on civilians.

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