Watchman Newsletter

Hopes For Iran Talks Hit By Violence: Obama

Google (Link) - AFP (June 27, 2009)

US President Barack Obama admitted Friday Iran's "outrageous" crackdown on demonstrators would hit his hopes for direct talks, and escalated a heated public row with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Obama, who came to power vowing to engage US enemies, including Iran, sharply rejected Ahmadinejad's demands for an apology for his previous comments on the post-election turmoil, in a further stiffening of US rhetoric.

"There is no doubt that any direct dialogue or diplomacy with Iran is going to be affected by the events of the last several weeks," Obama said after talks at the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"I think we're going to have to see how that plays itself out in the days and weeks ahead," said Obama.

Obama said however that the talks compered by the international P5-plus-1 group over Iran's nuclear program would likely continue.

He argued that despite speaking out with a "unified voice" on the violence in Tehran, the world needed to recognize that the prospect of Iran with nuclear weapons was a "big problem."

"My expectation would be... that you're going to continue to see some multilateral discussions with Iran."

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana has been authorized by UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany -- to discuss the issue with Tehran.

Obama also offered a personal riposte for Ahmadinejad's demands for an apology and accusations that the US president, despite a measured early response to the crackdown, had meddled in Iran's internal affairs.

"I don't take Mr. Ahmadinejad's statements seriously about apologies, particularly given the fact that the United States has gone out of its way not to interfere with the election process in Iran," said Obama.

"I'm really not concerned about Mr. Ahmadinejad apologizing to me.

"I would suggest that Mr. Ahmadinejad think carefully about the obligations he owes to his own people.

"And he might want to consider looking at the families of those who've been beaten or shot or detained... that's where I think Mr. Ahmadinejad and others need to answer their questions."

The president also praised the "bravery in the face of brutality" of protestors raising doubts about Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election.

"The violence perpetrated against them is outrageous."

Obama's comments were his first public response to Ahmadinejad's tirade against the United States and the West on Thursday, partly prompted by the US president's hardening tone on violence in Iran.

"I hope you (Obama) will avoid interfering in Iran's affairs," Ahmadinejad said, accusing the US leader of using words similar to those of his predecessor George W. Bush who took a hard line against the Islamic republic.

"Will you use this language with Iran (in any future dialogue)? If this is your stance, there will be nothing left to talk about," said Ahmadinejad.

Obama first responded to Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election with a measured approach, but hardened his tone on Tuesday following a crackdown on mass demonstrations supporting a rival candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Merkel bemoaned the "horrifying scenes" that she had seen from Iran. "We will not forget those," she said, and vowed to do everything to find out the number and identities of victims of the government crackdown.

"In this day and age of the 21st century, Iran cannot count on the world community turning a blind eye to this," she said.

Merkel referenced her own upbringing in communist East Germany, saying it was important for victims to know the people of the world were aware of their plight.

She also called for a "diplomatic solution to prevent Iran from gaining possession of a nuclear weapon." †

America ~ Europe ~ Iran ~ Obama ~ Solana