Ahmadinejad likens Obama to Bush

 
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Barack Obama on Thursday of behaving like his predecessor towards Iran and said there was not much point in talking to Washington unless the US president apologised.

Obama had said he was “appaled and outraged” by a post-election crackdown and Washington withdrew invitations to Iranian diplomats to attend US Independence Day celebrations on July 4 — stalling efforts to improve ties with Tehran.

“Mr Obama made a mistake to say those things... our question is why he fell into this trap and said things that previously (former US president George W) Bush used to say,” the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. “Do you want to speak with this tone? If that is your stance then what is left to talk about... I hope you avoid interfering in Iran’s affairs and express your regret in a way that the Iranian nation is informed of it,” he said.

About 20 people have died in demonstrations following the disputed June 12 election. Police and militia have flooded Tehran’s streets since Saturday, quelling the most widespread anti-government protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Battlefield shifts
Analysts say the battle has now moved off the street into a protracted behind-the-scenes struggle within Iran’s clerical establishment, facing an unprecedented public rift.
Opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, who says he won the poll, has the backing of such powerful figures as former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, and senior cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who normally stays above the political fray, has sided strongly with Ahmadinejad.

“My personal judgment is that this is a country deeply split and emotionalised,” a Western diplomat in the region said.

Khamenei has upheld the result and Iran’s top legislative body, the Guardian Council, has refused to annul the elections. A council spokesman said they were “among the healthiest polls ever held in the country”.

Mousavi to keep fighting
Mousavi said on Thursday he was determined to keep challenging the election results despite pressure to stop. “A major rigging has happened,” his website reported him as saying. “I am prepared to prove that those behind the rigging are responsible for the bloodshed.”

He called on his supporters to continue “legal” protests.

Mousavi supporters said they would release thousands of balloons on Friday imprinted with the message “Neda you will always remain in our hearts” — a reference to the young woman killed last week who has become an icon of the protests.

Obama had previously been muted in his criticism. But on Tuesday he said: “The United States and the international community have been appaled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days.”

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