WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Barack Obama on Tuesday raised "deep concerns" over the disputed Iranian election, but walking a delicate political line, vowed not to meddle in internal Iranian politics.
Obama's new comments followed his first public remarks on the disputed election on Monday, when he said he was "deeply troubled" by escalating violence and called for the rights of peaceful protestors to be respected.
"I have said before that I have deep concerns about the election. I think that the world has deep concerns about the election," Obama said after White House talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak.
"You have seen in Iran some initial reaction from the supreme leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people had deep concerns about the election."
But Obama added: "it is not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling -- the US president, meddling in Iranian elections."
The latest comments by the United States came after the disputed victor of the elections, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defiantly lashed the United States and the biggest demonstrations since Iran's 1979 revolution escalated.
Obama's carefully worded statements on Iran reflect a US desire to recognize the struggle of opposition supporters who believe their votes were stolen in the election but to avoid Washington becoming a "political football."
"When I see violence directed at peaceful protestors, when I see peaceful dissent being suppressed -- wherever that takes place -- it is a concern to me and it is a concern to the American people," he said.
"That is not how governments should interact with their people.
"My hope is that the Iranian people will make the right steps in order for them to be able to express their voices, to express their aspirations."
On Monday, Obama vowed to press ahead with his attempts to forge "hard headed" diplomacy with the Islamic Republic on its nuclear program and other issues, despite the disputed Iranian election.
On, Tuesday, he said had detected in the unusually high turnout and vivid election campaign in Iran a "questioning of the kinds of antagonistic postures toward the international community that have taken place in the past."
"There are people who want to see greater openness and greater debate and want to see greater democracy.
"How that plays out over the next several days and several weeks is something ultimately for the Iranian people to decide.
"But I stand strongly with the universal principle that people's voices should be heard and not suppressed."
Supporters of Ahmadinejad and his defeated challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi staged rival rallies on Tuesday as Iran responded to the deepening crisis with tight restrictions on the reporting of foreign journalists.
The country's election watchdog said it was ready to order a vote recount in the election that returned Ahmadinejad to power amid opposition claims of vote-rigging.
Ahmadinejad himself was in Russia, and in a new salvo at the West, said the "age of empires" was over, but made no mention of the situation back home.
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