AP: Governments of Muslim countries offered cautious congratulations in response to Iran’s presidential election, while several Western countries Saturday sharply criticized a vote they said showed “serious deficiencies.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the conservative mayor of Tehran, defeated his relatively moderate rival and was declared Iran’s next president. His triumph extends the conservatives’ control in Iran at a time when the nation’s nuclear program faces increasing international scrutiny.
By BETH GARDINER
Associated Press Writer
LONDON – Governments of Muslim countries offered cautious congratulations in response to Iran’s presidential election, while several Western countries Saturday sharply criticized a vote they said showed “serious deficiencies.”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the conservative mayor of Tehran, defeated his relatively moderate rival and was declared Iran’s next president. His triumph extends the conservatives’ control in Iran at a time when the nation’s nuclear program faces increasing international scrutiny.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said many candidates were excluded and there were widespread complaints that security forces and other arms of the government had interfered improperly in the first round of the elections held June 17.
“For the Iranian people to have a fully free choice about their country’s future, they should be able to vote for candidates who hold the full range of political views, not just candidates selected for them,” he said.
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri said Saturday the United States also questioned the fairness of the elections.
“We have expressed our clear concerns about the recent elections where over 1,000 candidates were disqualified from running, and there were many allegations of election fraud and interference,” she said. “We continue to stand with those who call for greater freedoms for the Iranian people.”
In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, a Foreign Ministry spokesman focused on the election itself rather than the winner.
“The people of Iran are to be congratulated for the tremendous support and enthusiasm they have shown for the democratic electoral process,” spokesman Marty Natalegawa said.
The leader of a radical Islamic group in Indonesia applauded the hard-liner’s victory.
“I’m glad and happy to know Iran’s result,” said Irfan Awwas, a leader of Majelis Mujahiddin Indonesia, an extremist group. Its founder, Abu Bakar Bashir, is in jail for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
A spokesman in Afghanistan – which shares a long border with Iran – refused comment on the choice of Ahmadinejad, saying the vote was an internal decision.
But several governments urged Iran to respond to international concerns about its nuclear program. France, Britain and Germany have been negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program, offering economic incentives in the hope of persuading the country to permanently halt uranium enrichment.
Straw urged the new president to “take early steps to address international concerns about its nuclear program and policies toward terrorism, human rights and the Middle East peace process.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said Friday that a permanent suspension was “not in the cards” whatever the outcome of the vote.
Iran suspended all uranium enrichment-related activities in November to avoid having its nuclear program referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. Iran insists its enrichment activities are for civilian uses only – not to make nuclear weapons, as the United States claims.
Ahmadinejad signaled during his campaign that he likely would take a much tougher stance in the talks.
In an open letter to be published in the Bild am Sonntag weekly on Sunday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he expected the talks to continue and that Iran “must produce objective guarantees that its nuclear program will be used exclusively for peaceful objectives.”
He said the Europeans would continue to push for increased democracy and human rights in Iran.
Russia, which is helping build a nuclear plant in Iran and has offered to build more, said it was ready to keep cooperating as long as international agreements were observed.