AFP: White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Wednesday withdrew his remark that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been "elected," saying Iranians still had questions about his disputed victory.
WAKARUSA, Indiana (AFP) — White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Wednesday withdrew his remark that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been "elected," saying Iranians still had questions about his disputed victory.
On Tuesday, Gibbs had declined to term Ahmadinejad Iran's legitimate president but said he had been "elected," stirring controversy among critics of the White House stance on Iran following June's controversial election.
"Let me correct a little bit of what I said yesterday. I denoted that Mr Ahmadinejad was the elected leader of Iran. I would say that is not for me to pass judgement on," Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One.
"He has been inaugurated — that's a fact. Whether any election was fair, obviously the Iranian people still have questions about that and we'll let them decide that."
Earlier on the day of Ahmadinejad's inauguration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed admiration for reformist opponents of Ahmadinejad but said Washington would maintain its offer of engaging the Islamic Republic.
"We appreciate and we admire the continuing resistance and ongoing efforts by the reformers to make the changes that the Iranian people deserve," Clinton said in Kenya at the start of a seven-nation Africa tour.
In his inauguration speech, Ahmadinejad said he would continue to resist "oppressive powers," dismissing the US stance towards Iran and hailing his election as a sign of major change.
But prominent opposition leaders were absent from the ceremony, and outside a force of about 1,000 riot police and volunteer Islamic militiamen used pepper spray on demonstrators who claim his election was rigged, witnesses said.