WASHINGTON--President Obama talked directly to Iran on Tuesday, calling on an editor from Huffington Post after the web outlet solicited questions online from Iranians. The president also said the iconic picture of the murdered Iranian woman named Neda was "heartbreaking" and that the CIA had nothing to do with the uprising.
Nico Pitney, the national editor for the site, was escorted to a prime spot into the jammed White House briefing room by a White House spokesman, Josh Earnest. Ready to take his second question, Obama looked around for the pre-positioned Pitney.
" I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian, Pitney said.
"We solicited questions last night from people who are still courageous enough to be communicating online, and one of them wanted to ask you this: Under which
conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad? And if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn't that a betrayal of what the demonstrators there are working towards?
Obama--who made it clear during the press conference the U.S. had nothing to do with the Iranian uprising, replied, "Well, look, we didn't have international observers on the ground.
"We can't say definitively what exactly happened at polling places throughout the country. What we know is that a sizable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, consider this election illegitimate. It's not an
isolated instance, a little grumbling here or there. There is significant questions about the legitimacy of the election.
" And so, ultimately, the most important thing for the Iranian
government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people,
not in the eyes of the United States. And that's why I've been very
clear, ultimately this is up to the Iranian people to decide who their
leadership is going to be and the structure of their government," Obama said.
Obama also made a point to say the events unfolding in Iran--the result of a disputed national election--were not the result of any U.S. actions."
"My role has been to say the United States is not going to be a foil for the Iranian government to try to blame what's happening on the streets of Tehran on the CIA or on the White House, that this is an issue that is led by and given voice to the frustrations of the Iranian people. And so we've been very consistent the first day, and we're going to continue to be consistent in saying this not an issue about the United States; this is about an issue of the Iranian people," Obama said.
"What we've also been consistent about is saying that there are some universal principles, including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, making sure that governments are not using coercion and violence and repression in terms of how they interact with peaceful demonstrators. And we have been speaking out very clearly about that fact."