Ahmadinejad slams Obama

TEHRAN: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again slammed US President Barack Obama on Saturday for "interfering" in Iran, as debate over the Iranian president's disputed re-election continued.

Tehran's streets appeared to be quiet after authorities had warned that any further protests would be suppressed.

"He (Obama) who spoke of reforms and changes, why did he interfere and comment in a way that disregards convention and courtesy," Ahmadinejad was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as asking.

On Friday, Obama said Iran's "outrageous" crackdown on demonstrators would hit his hopes for direct talks with Iran.

"There is no doubt that any direct dialogue or diplomacy with Iran is going to be affected by the events of the last several weeks," Obama said, referring to deadly clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting what they claim was Ahmadinejad's fraudulent re-election.

However, Obama said talks between Iran and the five permannent UN Security Council members and Germany over Tehran's nuclear programme would likely continue.

"My expectation would be ... that you're going to continue to see some multilateral discussions with Iran," he said.

The United States and other Western countries suspect Iran of using its nuclear energy programme as cover for a drive for an atomic weapon. Tehran denies that, saying its aims are purely civilian.

Obama also responded to Ahmadinejad's demands for an apology and accusations that the US president, despite a measured early response to the crackdown, had meddled in Iran's internal affairs.

"I don't take Mr Ahmadinejad's statements seriously about apologies, particularly given the fact that the United States has gone out of its way not to interfere with the election process in Iran," said Obama.

In his remarks on Saturday, Ahmadinejad said those Western leaders who made "insulting and irrelevant comments will be put on a fair trial" by Iran at every "international gathering." "It is enough. Do not disgrace yourself further by such language and behaviour," he said, urging them to "correct" their attitude towards Iran.

On Friday, foreign ministers of the Group of Eight leading powers said they were "concerned about the aftermath of the Iranian presidential election.

"We fully respect the sovereignty of Iran. At the same time we deplore post-election violence which led to the loss of lives of Iranian civilians and urge Iran to respect fundamental human rights.

"The crisis should be settled soon through democratic dialogue and peaceful means," the ministers said after talks in Trieste, Italy.

Iran regetted the "interfering and hasty position" taken by the G8 ministers, foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said on Saturday.

The G8 statement came after Iran's electoral watchdog, the Guardians Council, said that no "major irregularities" were found and that the elections were the "cleanest we have had." But the commission did set up a special panel to report on the disputed poll and conduct a partial re-count.

On Saturday, one of the defeated candidates, Mohsen Rezai, said he was prepared to serve on the panel and called on his fellow losers, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, to join him.

Iran's top political arbitration body, the Expediency Council, called on all the candidates to cooperate with the electoral watchdog.

It asked "all candidates to cooperate with the Guardians Council and to use this appropriate opportunity ... and submit their documents and evidence for a comprehensive and precise examination," according to a statement published by the ISNA news agency.

Officials meanwhile seized documents and computers from a political party that had backed Ahmadinejad's main challenger Mousavi, a reformist newspaper reported.

"Officials inspected the office of the Executives of Construction party in Tehran and took away its documents and computers," the Etemad Melli newspaper.

The party was founded in 1995 by technocrats and allies of powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a Mousavi supporter. Several of its members have been jailed in the election aftermath along with scores of reformist leaders, journalists and political activists.

Top cleric Grand Ayatollah Abdol Karim Mousavi Ardebili said the "solution to prevent such protests spreading in the streets is to give demonstrators a channel," either through television or legal gatherings, ILNA news agency reported.

And Iran summoned Swedish ambassador Magnus Werndstedt after an employee of its embassy in Stockholm was injured when protestors broke in in what Tehran called a "terrorist" attack, official media reported.