Germany’s Merkel, at White House, Calls for Validating Iran’s Elections
“I would like to underline that the Iranian people need to be given the right to peaceful demonstrations; that the Iranian people have the right to have votes be counted and the election results substantiated; that the rights of human beings, of individuals, of citizens are indivisible the world over, and also apply, therefore, to the Iranian people,” Merkel said standing next to Obama at a joint press conference.
The two leaders also discussed the post-election protest in Iran, where the government has beaten and imprisoned demonstrators who have questioned the landslide victory of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
A cloud hung over the election results because of the apparent 67 percent margin by which Ahmadinejad defeated Mousavi, even winning soundly in urban areas known to be Mousavi’s stronghold.
In response to a question about the Iranian leader’s statement that Obama is like his predecessor George W. Bush and should apologize to Iran, Obama was dismissive.
“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, and I'm really not concerned about Mr. Ahmadinejad apologizing to me,” Obama said.
“I would suggest that Mr. Ahmadinejad think carefully about the obligations he owes to his own people. And he might want to consider looking at the families of those who have been beaten or shot or detained. And that's where I think Mr. Ahmadinejad and others need to answer their questions,” he added.
Obama denounced Iran’s treatment of demonstrators, though he did not call the election illegitimate.
“I think what's absolutely clear is, over the course of subsequent days, that Mousavi has shown to have captured the imagination or the spirit of forces within Iran that were interested in opening up – and that he has become a representative of many of those people who are on the streets and who have displayed extraordinary bravery and extraordinary courage,” Obama said.
“I continue to believe that ultimately it's up to the Iranian people to make decisions about who their leaders are going to be,” said Obama.
“But as I said this week and I've said previously, a government that treats its own citizens with that kind of ruthlessness and violence, and that cannot deal with peaceful protestors who are trying to have their voices heard in a equally peaceful way, I think has moved outside of universal norms, international norms, that are important to uphold,” the president added.
Merkel agreed with Obama that the Iranian government’s treatment of demonstrators, as well as the country’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon must be dealt with on a multilateral basis from the international community.
“In this day and age of the 21st century, Iran cannot count on the world community turning a blind eye to this – we are able to see this through images,” Merkel said.
The two leaders had kind words for one another in the press conference, which included two questions from an American journalist and two questions from the German media.
Before their public appearance, they met for about an hour with Merkel in the Oval Office. After the public appearance, the two were scheduled to have lunch.
But the two leaders have not always seen eye to eye, as Merkel has criticized the United States’ decision to bailout its auto companies and has called for more fiscally responsible measures in dealing with the economic crisis juxtaposed to Obama’s increased spending to stimulate the economy.
They also discussed how to deal with the economic crisis, fight global warming and close the Guantanamo Bay prison.