Iran protests "interventionist" U.S. statements

TEHRAN Wed Jun 17, 2009 4:08pm EDT

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents U.S. interests in Tehran, on Wednesday to protest at "interventionist" U.S. statements on the country's election, Fars News Agency reported.

The Foreign Ministry communicated Iran's "protest and displeasure" over statements by U.S. government officials about the outcome of last week's presidential vote, Iran's semi-official news agency said.

In Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama will continue to defend the right of Iranians to peacefully protest the outcome of the election without "meddling" in Iran's internal debate.

"The people of Iran reserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted," said U.S. Secretary of State 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."

The State Department strongly rejected claims that the U.S. was interfering in the disputed June 12 election, pointing out that diplomats from other countries had also been summoned.

"I suspect we are in good company," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "This is not about the United States."

A senior Canadian diplomat in Tehran had also been called in to the ministry, Fars News Agency said. On Tuesday, several European ambassadors were also summoned.

Major Western nations have questioned the fairness of the official vote results which showed hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won a landslide against moderate Mirhossein Mousavi. The result sparked days of protests in Tehran and elsewhere.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the upheaval showed that "Iranian people are not convinced with the legitimacy of the election."

"The president will continue to express those concerns and ensure that we're not meddling," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Wednesday.

"Obviously, there is international concern for the way an election was conducted, and it's being looked into, and certainly we believe rightfully so," Gibbs said.

Crowley said it was up to Iran to resolve concerns over the election in a credible, transparent and peaceful way.

"As the president has said repeatedly, we have serious concerns about what is going on. It is up to the Iranian government to address these in a credible way, and we will be watching closely," said Crowley.

The United States severed ties with Tehran shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. After he took office in January, Obama has offered a new beginning of engagement with Iran if it "unclenches its fist."

(Reporting by Hashem Kalantari, additional reporting by Sue Pleming and Doug Palmer in Washington; writing by Fredrik Dahl, editing by Anthony Boadle)

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