Iran Focus: Washington, DC, Jun. 12 – United States President Barack Obama on Friday said that there had been a "robust debate" in Iran, as polling in the presidential election drew to a close.
Washington, DC, Jun. 12 – United States President Barack Obama on Friday said that there had been a "robust debate" in Iran, as polling in the presidential election drew to a close.
"We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran", Obama told reporters. "Whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact that there's been a robust debate hopefully will help advance our ability to engage them in new ways".
Meanwhile, the US ambassador to the United Nations on Friday warned that Washington's policy regarding the Islamic Republic's nuclear program would not depend on who becomes president in Iran.
"Our view is that Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran, ought to not pursue its nuclear program, its nuclear weapons program and that will not change depending on the outcome of the election", Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters at the White House.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said that Iranians wanted their voices to be heard, adding that the US was awaiting the final results of the polls.
In Iran, the official state news agency IRNA reported that hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won re-election. However, his main rival, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, told a news conference that he was “definitely” the winner. Both projections came before polling was over.
Official results are expected on Saturday.
Ahmadinejad faced three challengers: former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Moussavi, former Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, and Brigadier General Mohsen Rezai who for 16 years headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
The three challengers on Thursday appealed to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to ensure there was no vote rigging.
Khamenei had on at least three occasions, and as early as last week, indirectly supported Ahmadinejad, raising further doubts about how the voting process would go. The Supreme Leader has the final say on all state matters.
In the 2005 presidential contest, Karroubi accused members of the Revolutionary Guards of rigging votes in Ahmadinejad's favour. He vowed last night not to sleep until polling was over "in order to prevent any foul play at the last minute" by the Ahmadinejad camp.
The Interior Ministry in a statement issued at mid-day Friday announced a ban on all political gatherings until the close of the polls.
If no candidate is confirmed to have obtained more than 50 percent of the vote today, the two front-runners will face a run-off vote on 19 June.
Friday's vote had been preceded in earlier days by unprecedented exposures of high-level corruption by the four candidates in the course of nightly televised debates. In the debate between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi, the incumbent president claimed that former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were helping Moussavi to unseat him. He also accused Rafsanjani's sons of major embezzlement. Some analysts believe that Ahmadinejad had the endorsement and backing of Supreme Leader Khamenei in making the remarks.
Rafsanjani, who now heads the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council, wrote an open letter to Khamenei on Tuesday, warning of "social upheavals of volcanic proportions" unless Ahmadinejad was dealt with. He urged the supreme leader to "extinguish the fire, the smoke of which had already been detected" and "prevent the eruption of fiery crises” during the election and in its aftermath. He also reminded Khamenei that Ahmadinejad’s charges against previous administrations of mismanagement of the economy and involvement in embezzlements were concerning a period in which Khamenei himself was either president or supreme leader, thereby undermining the regime in its entirety.