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Obama Administration Defends Response to Iranian Crisis



U.S. officials have defended the Obama administration's handling of the Iranian election crisis, as critics say the U.S. president is not taking a strong enough stand on the issue.

White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs Monday, said many in Iran would love for the United States to dominate the story, but that the president realizes that is not helpful.

Iranians should decide

Deputy U.S. Secretary of State James Steinberg said he does not agree with the criticism that Barack Obama has reacted too cautiously to the Iranian violence. Steinberg said some influential voices in Congress from both the Republican and Democratic parties "have recognized, as the president has said, that this issue is about the Iranians and is for the Iranians to decide."

Republican U.S. lawmakers, including former presidential candidate John McCain, say President Obama, a Democrat, has been too timid on the issue.

McCain criticizes Obama's response

Senator McCain, who represents the southwestern state of Arizona, has said the president's response is a "betrayal" of America's founding principles.

White House Spokesman Gibbs also said Mr. Obama has been "moved" by the television images of people protesting in Iran, particularly those of women who have stood up for their rights to speak out and be heard.

Western interference?

Iranian officials have accused Britain and other Western nations of stoking the post-election unrest in Iran - a charge Western nations have denied.

Iran's Interior Ministry issued a statement condemning what it called "Britain's interference." Still, the ministry underscored that it refused to grant a permit to a student group that wanted to stage a pro-government / anti-Britain rally Tuesday outside the British Embassy in Tehran.

Iranian media said Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani called for a review of Iran's ties with Britain in a speech to parliament Monday. And London said it is evacuating family members of its diplomatic staff stationed in Iran, while leaving staff members themselves in place.

BBC, VOA accused of bias

Iran expelled the British Broadcasting Corporation's permanent correspondent in Tehran after accusing the BBC and the Voice of America of "engineering the ongoing post-election riots."

VOA Director Dan Austin has rejected Iran's accusations.

Separately, the Czech presidency of the European Union invited EU member states to summon Iranian envoys to protest the violent response of government forces to anti-government demonstrators.

Syria warns against interference

In Syria, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned the West against intervening in Iran's internal affairs, saying it could harm talks between Iran and the United States.

In another development, Italy's foreign minister said he believes Iran has declined an invitation to attend a meeting of the world's top industrialized countries later this week in the city of Trieste on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Franco Frattini told an Italian television station he reached that conclusion because Iran did not respond to the invitation by the end of the day Monday.

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