White House speaks out on Iran

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says "there are a number of factors that give us some concern" about the election

By Alex Koppelman

Published June 15, 2009 4:10PM (EDT)

The Obama administration has to perform something of a high-wire act when it comes to the situation in Iran right now. On the one hand, it doesn't want to be seen as weak, and it wants to see the best possible result out of the post-election tumult. On the other, it's well aware that U.S. intervention -- even if solely rhetorical -- could backfire and help the cause of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who's often bolstered his power by using the U.S. as a bogeyman.

So in speaking with reporters on Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was very careful with what he said -- but he did back up Vice President Biden's earlier comments about being concerned that the results from Friday's election could be fraudulent. Here's the transcript of the exchange, as provided by the White House:

Q Does the President think the Iranian election was run fairly and that the announced results are accurate?

GIBBS: Well, I don't have a lot to add to what -- the statement that we put out this weekend and what Vice President Biden said yesterday. Obviously we continue to have concern about what we've seen. Obviously the Iranians are looking into this, as well. We continue to be heartened by the enthusiasm of young people in Iran.

But I think what's important is the concerns that we have about their nuclear weapons program, and the concern we have about their support for terror isn’t any different than it was on Friday.

Q Does the margin of victory announced for Ahmadinejad seem reasonable or plausible to the White House?

GIBBS: I think there are a number of factors that give us some concern about what we've seen.

My former colleague Michael Scherer, now with Time Magazine, reports that we should expect to hear something from President Obama on Iran at 5 p.m. ET Monday afternoon.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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