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Obama holds to measured course on unrest in Iran

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday stuck to a measured response to the uprising in Iran over its disputed presidential election, even as both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly to condemn the crackdown on demonstrations.

The House voted 405-1 to condemn Tehran's actions against protest rallies and the government's interference with Internet and cell phone communications. The Senate followed suit.

The resolution was initiated by Republicans and aimed at President Barack Obama, who has been reluctant to criticize Tehran's handling of an election that left hard-liner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power.

The resolution expresses support for "all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and rule of law" and affirms "the importance of democratic and fair elections."

Obama's chief spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said the White House welcomed the resolution, calling its language consistent with the president's. "As the president has said, we're not going to be used as political foils and political footballs in a debate that's happening by Iranians in Iran," Gibbs said.

He said the administration's view is that Iranian leaders would use fiercer U.S. support for the protesters to paint them as puppets of the Americans. "That's not what we're going to do," Gibbs said.

Britain protests speech: Britain's Foreign Office said Friday it told an Iranian diplomat that it was concerned that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Britain "evil." During a sermon Friday at Tehran University, Khamenei accused the United States, Britain and "other enemies" of fomenting unrest. He singled out Britain, saying, "they are displaying their enmity against the Islamic state, and the most evil of them is the British government." The Foreign Office summoned the Iranian ambassador for talks, but said that, in the end, a more junior diplomat attended a meeting with political director Mark Lyall Grant.

BBC adds satellites: The British Broadcasting Corp. is using extra satellites to broadcast its Farsi-language service after days of jamming it blamed on Iran. The BBC said the move was meant to help it reach its Iranian audience as the crisis over the election deepens. It is also a challenge to Iran's religious government, which accuses foreign media of stirring unrest, singling out the BBC in particular.

Obama holds to measured course on unrest in Iran 06/19/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 19, 2009 10:48pm]
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