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Obama Administration Denies Interfering in Iranian Affairs

The Obama administration Wednesday rejected charges by Iran of U.S. interference in that country's affairs following its bitterly disputed election. At the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended U.S. efforts to keep the internet social networking service Twitter active in Iran.

Top administration officials are denying any intention to interfere in what they say is a debate among Iranians over the election and its aftermath, and they say an acknowledged State Department effort to maintain Iranian Twitter service was in defense of free speech for all Iranians.

The Iranian government summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents U.S. interests in Tehran, to complain about what were termed interventionist U.S. statements about Iran's post-election unrest.

Both White House and State Department spokesmen denied meddling in Iranian affairs. At a news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States, in encouraging a free election and political debate in Iran, has been upholding universally recognized values.

"The people of Iran deserve the right to have their voices heard, and their votes counted," said Hillary Clinton. "The outcome of any election should reflect the will of the people. And it is for the Iranians to determine how they resolve this internal protest concerning the outcome of the recent election. But it is a fundamental value that the United States holds with respect to free and fair and credible elections."

The State Department confirmed that on Monday it had asked Twitter to forego a scheduled service outage for maintenance in order to assure that the social networking service remained available in Iran.

Twitter, which allows people to exchange short messages with personal computers, cell phones and similar devices, has been a key means of communication among Iranian election protesters amid government efforts to curb media coverage of unrest.

Clinton, as have other administration officials, said the approach to Twitter was in defense of Iranian free speech and not political meddling.

"We promote the right of free expression," she said. "And it is the case that one of the means of expression - the use of Twitter - is a very important one, not only to the Iranian people but increasingly to people around the world and most particularly young people. I wouldn't know a Twitter from a Tweeter but apparently it is very important and I think keeping that line of communications open and enabling people to share information, particularly at a time when there was not many other sources of information, is an important expression of the right to speak out and be able to organize that we value."

A senior official here earlier cited press reports that demonstrators on both sides of the election controversy in Iran have been using Twitter to organize protests.

Clinton said the Obama administration still intends to pursue dialogue with Iran regardless of how the election controversy plays out, saying it is in the U.S. interest to try to engage Iran on what U.S. officials believe is a weapons-related nuclear program and its support for international terrorism.