Monday, June 22, 2009

Republicans urge Obama to get tougher on Iran

Republicans urge Obama to get tougher on Iran
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama should take a firm stand to support the street protests that have engulfed Iran since its disputed June 12 presidential election result, U.S. Republican senators said on Sunday.
"He's been timid and passive more than I would like," said Senator Lindsey Graham on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" television news program.
"We could be more forceful than we have," Republican Senator Charles Grassley said on CNN's "State of the Union" show.
Their comments came as pro-reform Iranian clerics stepped up criticism of the government in Tehran on Sunday after more than a week of popular defiance against Iran's leadership, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The hard-line anti-Western Iranian leader overwhelmingly won last week's election, according to official results, but his main challenger, Mirhossein Mousavi, has accused the government of massive electoral fraud and called on Iranians to protest.
At least 10 people were killed on Saturday in street demonstrations.
Obama has walked a fine line in his comments on the election, wanting to avoid being seen as "meddling" in Iranian politics but facing pressure from Republicans to be a more forceful advocate for those protesting the election.
On Saturday, Obama urged Tehran to "stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people" his most forceful comments yet on the Iranian crackdown.
"I would like to see the president be stronger, although I appreciate the comments he made yesterday," Republican Senator John McCain, who lost the 2008 election to Obama, said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"This is not just an Iran issue, this is an American issue. This is what we are all about," McCain said in reference to the anti-government protests in Iran.
But Democratic senators said too much outward U.S. support for dissenters could undermine them.
"It is very crucial ... that we not have our fingerprints on this, that this be truly inspired by the Iranian people," Senator Dianne Feinstein said on CNN.
Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she did not know of any U.S. meddling in the Iranian election or in its aftermath.
"To the best of my knowledge there has been no interference with the election. There has been no manipulation of people following the election," she said.
"These questions have been asked as late as this past week of people in the clandestine operations who would know this, in a formal setting, and that is the answer we were given."
Obama, in the forefront of diplomatic efforts to halt an Iranian nuclear program the West fears could produce atomic weapons, recently acknowledged that the United States helped overthrow Iran's elected government in a 1953 coup that installed a pro-U.S. monarchy in power. Continued...
Source: Reuters

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