U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that a "huge credibility gap" remains among Iranians about their country's June 12 presidential election, despite the partial vote recount that is said to have upheld the announced victory by incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Clinton also deplored Iran's detention of several Iranian staff members of the British embassy in Tehran.
Clinton says the broad skepticism among Iranians about the electoral process and the apparent re-election of President Ahmadinejad is unlikely to be quelled by Monday's announcement by Iran's Guardian Council that a partial recount upheld the originally-announced outcome.
The powerful council, which supervises elections and has wide-ranging powers in the Islamic government, said a random recount of 10 percent of the ballot boxes nationwide upheld Mr. Ahmadinejad's landslide victory over reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Clinton, appearing at the State Department's daily press briefing, said she did not want to speculate on Iran's political future, but she that the reported recount is unlikely to do much to defuse election-related tensions.
"Obviously, they have a huge credibility gap with their own people as to the election process," said Hillary Clinton. "And I don't think that's going to disappear by any finding of a limited review of a relatively-small number of ballots. But clearly, these internal matters are for Iranians themselves to address. And we hope that they will be given the opportunity to do so in a peaceful way that respects the right of expression. And it has been my position and that of our administration that we support the fundamental values of peoples' voices being heard, their votes being counted. And we'll have to see how this unfolds."
Clinton declined to say whether the Obama administration will formally recognize Mr. Ahmadinejad's re-election, saying U.S. officials are going to "take this a day at a time" and carefully assess what happens.
She also would not say whether the violent election aftermath has ended U.S. hopes of engaging Iran on its nuclear program and other issues of concern. But Clinton said it certainly is a reason for caution in dealing with Tehran.
"We're going to watch this unfold and were going to act in America's national interests," she said. "That's what this has always been about. It has never been about Iran as much as it's been the values, goals and interests of the United States of America. And we remain committed to doing all we can to try to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power. So we're going to watch this. And we're going gauge our actions accordingly."
Clinton said Iran's arrest of several Iranian staff members of the British embassy in Tehran for alleged links to post-election unrest was deplorable and that the United States continues to support Britain in seeking the release of those still held.