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International Criticism of Iranian Government Actions Grows


International criticism of Iran's handling of a disputed presidential vote and subsequent protests is mounting, after Iranian media reported the arrest of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's eldest daughter.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel added her voice to a growing chorus of Western leaders demanding respect for civil liberties in Iran.

"Human rights and citizens' rights are inseparable, and that is why Germany stands behind the people, and peaceful demonstrations in Iran, who want to make use of their freedom of speech and who want to gather peacefully. I, therefore, demand that Iran's leaders allow peaceful demonstrations, allow free reporting of events, stop the use of violence against demonstrators and free imprisoned people."

Ms. Merkel urged a full recount of Iran's contested presidential vote. Official results showed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winning re-election in a landslide.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki denounced Western criticism as "treacherous" and "unjust," and accused foreign governments of fomenting unrest in his country. Responding, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he "categorically" rejects any suggestion that foreign countries are manipulating protesters in Iran.

Meanwhile, authorities in Tehran say they have arrested Faezeh Hashemi - the eldest daughter of former President Rafsanjani. Last week, Hashemi was seen addressing supporters of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who alleges massive fraud in the June 12 ballot and is calling for a new election.

Saturday saw clashes between demonstrators and security forces in the capital. Thousands rallied in Tehran, despite a warning by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to stop demonstrations about the disputed election. News organizations around the world have come to rely on reporting, photographs and video from ordinary Iranian citizens, as foreign journalists have been expelled from the country or confined to their hotels.

Scores of demonstrations have been mounted around the world in support of protesters in Iran. Many of those taking part have relatives in the country.

"They're killing our kids over there," said one Iranian demonstrator in California. "So I don't know. We can't do anything else. Just I believe this is the most [i.e., best] thing that we can do. And anytime that they need us, we are going to be there for them."

On Saturday, President Barack Obama issued his strongest statement to date on the Iranian situation. He called on the Iranian government "to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people" and said the United States "stands by all who seek to exercise" the universal rights to assemble and speak freely.

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