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Obama Questions Legitimacy of Iran's Election


U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned what he called "unjust actions" by the Iranian government against political demonstrators, and says there are "big questions" about the legitimacy of Iran's presidential election.

At a White House news conference Tuesday, Mr. Obama said the United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the beatings and arrests of protesters in Iran.

Mr. Obama said the United States is not interfering in Iranian affairs, but condemns the violence.

He noted that international observers were not present for the June 12th election, so there is no way to know exactly what happened at the polling stations. But he said a sizable percentage of the population considers the election illegitimate.

Iranian media reported Tuesday that the nation's powerful Guardian Council will not annul the results of the election, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared a landslide winner.

Earlier, the council conceded that the total number of votes in 50 cities surpassed the number of people eligible to cast ballots there. More than three million votes could be in question.

The council insists that the questionable votes were not enough to affect President Ahmadinejad's victory. The Interior Ministry has pledged to publish the results of box-by-box vote count in an attempt to resolve ambiguities about the poll.

Iran's parliament announced Tuesday that Mr. Ahmadinejad will be sworn in between July 26 and August 19.

On the streets of central Tehran Monday, witnesses to a demonstration said Iranian police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of opposition protesters rallying at Haft-e-Tir Square.

Earlier, Iranian state media reported that 10 people were killed and at least 100 injured in fierce clashes Saturday between security forces and demonstrators in Tehran

Defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has issued a statement supporting further protests, but he urged restraint to avoid more bloodshed. Another opposition candidate Mehdi Karroubi has called for a day of mourning in honor of the slain protesters.

The official death toll from Iran's post-election violence is now at 17. Other reports say the toll is considerably higher. None of the reports have been confirmed, and Iran has barred independent media from reporting in the country.

The country's elite Revolutionary Guard has warned it will use force to crush demonstrations about the election.

The disputed vote has triggered Iran's greatest unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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