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Iranian President regrets deaths of protestors

Last Updated: Friday, September 18, 2009 - 12:56

Washington: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told US television he regretted the deaths of protestors during demonstrations that erupted after Iran`s disputed June elections.
"All of us regret the fact that some people were killed," Ahmadinejad told NBC television in excerpts of an interview to be aired in full on Sunday.

Ahmadinejad`s June 12 re-election unleashed massive street protests that shook the Islamic regime and divided the ruling elites and powerful clerical groups.

The unrest left 36 people dead, according to government officials -- opposition groups claim 72 died -- and isolated Iran even further from world powers who are threatening fresh sanctions over the country`s suspect nuclear program.

But Ahmadinejad said he did not "see any problems" with the credibility of his June 12 poll, which the opposition has charged was massively rigged.

The Iranian President said he was also saddened by the death of a young woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, whose killing during a protest rally in Tehran generated an international outcry.

"I was saddened, as well all the Iranian people were saddened," he said.

But he then proceeded to say the government was treating the incident as a "suspicious death" and vowed that "the truth will come to light."

Neda, as she is more commonly known, became an icon for the opposition that is protesting Ahmadinejad`s re-election, after an Internet video showing her final moments was seen around the world.

Ahmadinejad has already called for a probe into her death, saying there had been fabricated reports about the incident and "widespread propaganda" by the foreign media.

The street protests were the worst political violence to rock Iran in the 30-year history of the Islamic republic, shaking the regime and dividing the ruling elites and powerful clerical groups.

Around 4,000 protesters who opposed Ahmadinejad were initially arrested. While most of them have since been released, 140 have been put on trial, including leading reformist politicians, activists and employees of the British and French embassies.

Iran shut down Kahrizak jail south of Tehran after three protesters died of injuries reportedly inflicted in custody.

The authorities have faced further embarrassment by allegations that prisoners were raped and tortured.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, September 18, 2009 - 12:56

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