Clinton wants direct talks with Iran |

Clinton wants direct talks with Iran

AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration will pursue talks with Iran on nuclear and other issues regardless of who emerges as president in the aftermath of Iran’s disputed election, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.

“We are obviously waiting to see the outcome of the internal Iranian processes, but our intent is to pursue whatever opportunities might exist in the future with Iran” to discuss big issues, Clinton told reporters.

President Barack Obama and other top administration officials have carefully tried to stay neutral during the dispute and remain open to engagement with both the current government and whoever might take power.

That effort has not been easy, as shown by Iranian charges Wednesday of undue U.S. meddling in their postelection conflict – an accusation that administration officials shrugged off.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama has been clear that there is “a vigorous debate in Iran, between Iranians, about their leadership.” Gibbs said Obama stands by his defense of principles such as the right of people to demonstrate peacefully.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran directly accused the United States of meddling in the deepening crisis over a disputed presidential election and broadened its media clampdown Wednesday to include blogs and news Web sites. But protesters took to the streets in growing defiance of the country’s Islamic rulers.

The sweep of events – including more arrests and a call for another mass opposition march through Tehran – displayed the sharpening attacks by authorities but also the unprecedented challenges directed at the very heart of Iran’s Islamic regime: its supreme leader and the cleric-run system.

Any serious shift of the protest anger toward Iran’s non-elected theocracy would sharply change the stakes.

Instead of a clash over the June 12 election results, it would become a showdown over the core premise of Iran’s system of rule – the almost unlimited authority of the clerics at the top.

“It’s changing the way Iranians see the supreme leader and the system in general,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian affairs analyst. “That opens up they system up in ways it’s never faced before.”

For the moment, however, both sides appear to be using the same tactics since the disputed results showed hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the landslide winner.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi called for another mass rally today in open defiance of Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has urged the nation to unite behind the Islamic state.