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March, 2019

Australia 11th in world for broadband access

South Korea, where 95 per cent of homes have broadband, topped a world survey on access to the high-speed internet.

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Among other Asia-Pacific nations, Australia ranked 11th with 72 per cent, Japan ranked 16th with 64 per cent, New Zealand ranked 25th with 57 per cent and China ranked 43rd with 21 per cent.

The United States, where just 60 per cent of households had broadband as of last year, ranked 20th in the survey of 58 countries by Boston-based Strategy Analytics, released on Thursday.

Asia ahead

Five of the top 10 countries or territories in the survey were in Asia and the firm predicted the broadband subscriber base in the Asia-Pacific region will grow on average by a further 15 per cent a year between 2009 and 2013.

Strategy Analytics said South Korea’s highly-urbanised population and its government-backed broadband policy accounted for its high rate of broadband penetration.

With South Korea ranked first the other top nine included Singapore ranked second with 88 per cent, followed by the

Netherlands (85 per cent), Denmark (82 per cent), Taiwan (81 per cent), Hong Kong (81 per cent), Israel (77 per cent), Switzerland (76 per cent), Canada (76 per cent) and Norway (75 per cent).

India down bottom of list

Thailand ranked 51st with seven per cent, Vietnam ranked 52nd, also with seven per cent, the Philippines ranked 53rd with five per cent, India ranked 57th with two per cent and Indonesia ranked 58th with one per cent.

Strategy Analytics acknowledged that measuring broadband penetration has been a subject of controversy with arguments being made over whether it should be measured by household or per capita.

“Broadband rankings are often the subject of great debate and hand-wringing,” said David Mercer, vice president of Strategy Analytics.

“Though our rankings may differ from those of other organisations, it is because we are looking at the appropriate metrics,” he said.

“In far too many cases, people are looking at the wrong things,” said Ben Piper, a Strategy Analytics analyst.

‘Misleading results’

“Residential broadband is overwhelmingly consumed on a household basis — not individually,” he said.

“Reporting broadband penetration on a per capita basis misses the mark, and can provide grossly misleading results.”

A survey released on Thursday by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre’s internet and American Life Project found that as of April of this year, 63 per cent of individual adult Americans have broadband internet connections at home.

That was an increase of 15 per cent from a year earlier, Pew said, and an indication that the economic recession has had little effect on decisions whether to buy or keep a home high-speed internet connection.

Obama’s Iran reaction sparks debate

There has been fierce debate in the United States about President Barack Obama’s reaction to the Iran protests — with some saying he has not given enough support to the Tehran demonstrators.

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By minimizing policy differences between incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — who claimed victory in the disputed presidential election — and challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, whose supporters have flooded the streets, Obama has angered conservatives and put the White House and some Democrats on the back foot.

Senator John McCain, Obama’s Republican rival in last year’s US election, described the president’s response as “tepid,” and blasted him for abandoning the “fundamental principles” of the United States.

‘Refusing to pick sides’

Obama has stressed that universal rights of peaceful protest should be honored in Iran, but has refused to pick sides in the showdown.

He warned that US “meddling” in Iran’s internal politics would be counterproductive, and vowed to push forward his engagement policy with Iran.

It is a stance that has left some lawmakers fuming.

“Their silence on the issue of human rights violations is very troubling to me,” said Eric Cantor, the number two Republican in the House of Representatives.

“America has a moral responsibility to stand up for human rights around the world and to condemn the abuses that are occurring in Tehran today,” he said.

‘Think before you speak’

Influential Democratic Senator John Kerry offered a retort, writing a commentary in the New York Times under the title “With Iran, Think Before You Speak.”

“We are all inspired by Iran’s peaceful demonstrations, the likes of which have not been seen there in three decades,” Kerry wrote, adding that “watching heartbreaking video images of Basij paramilitaries terrorizing protesters, we feel the temptation to respond emotionally.

“The last thing we should do is give Mr Ahmadinejad an opportunity to evoke the 1953 American-sponsored coup, which ousted Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and returned Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to power.”

Experts and the US media have also seized on the debate.

War of words

The Washington Post noted in an editorial that the White House was “carefully calibrating positive messages about the protests in an effort to avoid giving the government in Tehran an excuse to portray the demonstrators as pro-American.” The New York Times more bluntly suggested that Obama “worries about coming out on the wrong side of history.”

Steve Clemons, an expert at the New America Foundation, a Washington research center, said Obama made a “mistake” to dismiss the differences between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi.

“Obama may not have meant to but he conveyed disrespect for the process at play now in Iran — and what is important for Obama and others in the national security establishment to understand is that Iran’s election is not over,” Clemons wrote.

Obama ‘showing restraint’

Robin Wright, of the Woodrow Wilson Center, told AFP that “Obama is wisely showing restraint for now.”

“Maybe down the road he needs to say something, but the minute we weigh in, the minute we say the things that we obviously feel, is the moment that America becomes the defining force, that the (Iranian) regime blames us for everything,” said Wright, a former Washington Post political correspondent.

Daniel Brumberg of the US Institute of Peace said he views the issue as “a debate about the legacy of the Bush administration.”

In 2002 president George W. Bush lumped Iran, Iraq and North Korea into an “axis of evil,” part of a neoconservative policy to promote pro-American democracy by pressuring such governments until they crumble.

With Obama “it’s a debate about how much the US should be at the forefront, trying to speak about pushing for democracy,” said Brumberg, a Middle East expert.

Rifts reported

The debate has agitated the Obama administration. The New York Times reported that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had hoped Obama would lend more vocal support to the demonstrators.

And Vice President Joe Biden privately believes Obama’s remarks on Mousavi were a “mistake,” say sources familiar with Biden’s position on the matter.

A State Department spokesman, Philip Crowley, insisted Obama and Clinton agreed on Iran. “I don’t think there’s any daylight between the position of the president and the position of the secretary of state,” Crowley said.

Ayatollah backs poll outcome

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for an end to street protests over last week’s disputed presidential election, siding with declared winner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Making his first public appearance after daily protests over the official results, Khamenei ruled out any major fraud in the conduct of the poll and warned that the defeated candidates would be held to account over any renewed violence on the streets.

“The people have chosen whom they wanted,” the supreme leader said in his sermon on Friday at the main weekly prayers in Tehran, which was broadcast live across the nation after a week of unrest that has unnerved the regime.

“I see some people more suitable for serving the country than others but the people made their choice,” he said to cheers from the massed ranks of the faithful who included the victorious hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“What I want was not told to the people — the president’s opinion is closer to my opinion.”

Khamenei insisted that despite the 646 complaints of poll violations registered by the three defeated candidates with electoral watchdog the Guardians Council, there could be no doubting Ahmadinejad’s re-election to a second four-year term given his margin of victory.

“The legal mechanisms in our country do not allow cheating. How can one cheat with a margin of 11 million votes?” he asked.

The supreme leader demanded that the street protests that have rocked the capital for the past week now cease, warning that otherwise there risked being further bloodshed beyond the seven deaths reported by state radio so far.

“I want to tell everyone these things must finish. These street actions are being done to put pressure on leaders but we will not bow in front of them,” he said.

“Those politicians who somehow have influence on people should be very careful about their behaviour if they act in an extremist manner,” the supreme leader warned.

“This extremism will reach a sensitive level which they will not be able to contain. They will be responsible for the blood, violence and chaos.”

The opposition has been planning a new mass rally in Tehran on Saturday, to be addressed by the Ahmadinejad’s principal challenger, moderate former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi.

There was no immediate word from the reformist clerical association which is organising the rally on whether they still planned to go ahead.

Another of the defeated candidates, reformist former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, had urged his supporters to stay away from the Tehran prayers addressed by the supreme leader and instead join Saturday’s rally.

Unlike the rallies held by the opposition, foreign media were allowed to cover Friday’s prayers.

Khamenei’s sermon came after Ahmadinejad’s principal challenger told the latest mass protest by his supporters on Thursday that their gripe was only with the election results not the regime itself.

Speaking through a loudhailer, Mousavi reiterated his demand for a re-run of the election, which he has denounced as a “shameful fraud”.

“We have come to obtain our rights. We only want our votes,” he said, according to his newspaper website Kalemeh.ir. “We will make any sacrifice to protect the system.”

The three defeated candidates — Karroubi and conservative ex-Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai as well as Mousavi — have been invited to set out their grievances before electoral watchdog, the Guardians Council, on Saturday.

The council has said it will make its decision on Sunday on any recount.

Rezai told state television that official turnout was as high as 140 per cent in some constituencies during last week’s vote.

“When I submit (the list for) 170 constituencies where participation reached between 95 and 140 per cent are these generalities or does this need to be examined?” he asked.

World powers have raised concern about the violence and widespread arrests, with EU leaders set to condemn their use against protesters.

“The European Union is observing the response to the protests across Iran with serious concern,” said the statement to be agreed by the European leaders at a two-day Brussels summit.

“It strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters resulting in the deaths of several people,” continues the text, seen by AFP.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay also expressed concern.

In the face of the regime’s biggest crisis since the 1979 revolution overthrew the pro-Western shah, Iran’s Islamic rulers have repeatedly lashed out at “meddling” by foreign powers.

Khamenei on Friday renewed the charge, singling out Britain for particular criticism.

“Today, top diplomats of several Western countries who talked to us so far within diplomatic formalities are showing their real face and most of all, the British government,” he said.

Western governments have repeatedly insisted that they are not trying to interfere in the Iranian election, merely to defend universal rights of peaceful protest.

Gillard meets US counterpart

The Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has met US Vice President Joe Biden on the first stop of an international tour that’s taking her to the United States and Israel.

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The pair spoke in Washington, with Ms Gillard being the first political leader to meet Mr Biden.

A scheduled meeting with Hillary Clinton was cancelled after the Secretary of State shattered her elbow in a fall.

In a speech to the Foresight International Conference, Ms Gillard said progressive responses were needed from nations at a challenging time for the global community.

“But the success of those responses is not guaranteed,” she said.

“For example, we are warned and worried by the advances of the right and far right in this month’s European elections, just as we are cheered that change has come and continues to come to Washington.”

Change needed

Progress depends on bringing together areas of political and policy action that have traditionally been kept separate, she said.

“What I mean is that building a productive, sustainable future through education and work depends on our taking effective global action to bring peace, security, environmental responsibility and democratic legitimacy,” she said.

She cited the Middle East, which she will visit next week, as an example of where this strategy was most necessary.

“But every nation, every community faces some version of the same shared challenge,” Ms Gillard said.

Australian reform

After years of conservative rule, Ms Gillard said Australia was playing catch-up in some areas like climate change and skilling its workforces.

“In some of these areas, we are acting to catch up on progress made by other countries during the last decade. But we are also ready to lead and to help shape a new path of progressive reform,” she said.

“That, in particular, is where our relationship with the United States and its role in a changing world are so important.”

Next week, Ms Gillard will lead a delegation to the inaugural Australia Israel Leadership Forum.

Indians and police bond over cricket

Tension over recent attacks on Indian students around Victoria was put aside today, when Indian students joined members of Victoria Police for a game of laneway cricket in Melbourne’s CBD.

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Weeks of unease were all but forgotten as the mixed teams had a hit as part of Cricket Victoria’s Harmony in Cricket program.

Australian cricketer Brad Hodge went along for his first game of laneway cricket and said as the two countries share a love of the game, more matches could be a “stepping stone” for rebuilding the relationship between Indian students and the wider community.

“I’ve toured India myself and always felt very welcome, and it’s important we do the same here,” said Hodge, who has played alongside many Indian cricketers in the Indian Premier League and has toured the country as part of the Australian Test team.

“Cricket’s about friendship and love for the game, and we’re here to try to do both.”

Violence condemned

Hodge criticised the recent violence, and said Australia needs to remember its multicultural roots.

“Let’s get back into the friendship, and what we know as Australians, and that’s being friendly to everyone,” he said.

“That’s who Australians are and that’s what we have to get back to.”

Sport could improve relations

Victoria Police spokesman Constable Craig Spicer said a simple game of cricket could improve the relationship between police and the Indian community.

“Having a game of cricket is a really simple concept but the benefits are amazing.”

He said reaching out to the community like this helped police improve relations with international students.

Positive reaction

Student Rimpy Singh said it a step in the right direction and could help Indian students move past the last few weeks.

“I’ve got the confidence back in me to say we can forget the past, and move forwards,” Mr Singh said.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans was in Melbourne to meet with Indian students about their concerns over the recent spate of attacks.

He said there was a very strong relationship between Australia and India and the government was supportive of the Indian community.

“These attacks have been isolated acts of a small few, not at all representative of the Australian population more generally,” Mr Evans said.

PM denies wrongdoing in OzCar row

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has continued to deny that he or his office tried to help Ipswich car dealer John Grant secure a government-backed loan.

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Speaking to reporters late on Friday, Mr Rudd disputed evidence given by a Treasury official to a Senate inquiry that his office had contacted Godwin Grech regarding Mr Grant, who is a friend and neighbour of the prime minister.

However, Mr Rudd has asked the auditor-general to investigate the matter.

Opposition email claims

Restating his previous denials to parliament, Mr Rudd said: “As of now, I have no basis before me which changes that position.”

The opposition has suggested Mr Rudd’s senior economic adviser Andrew Charlton wrote to Mr Grech, who runs the government’s OzCar scheme providing car financing, to lobby on behalf of Mr Grant.

But Mr Rudd said there was no evidence his adviser had emailed Mr Grech and Dr Charlton denied having sent such an email.

Searches by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC) and Treasury of Dr Charlton’s computer and the system of the public service had found nothing.

‘No such correspondence’

“There have been exhaustive searches conducted on Dr Charlton’s computer email system and no such correspondence can be found,” Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd noted that during his evidence Mr Grech had indicated his recollection could be wrong.

“The public servant in question said this afternoon that he believed he had an email communication from Dr Andrew Charlton of my office making representations on behalf of Mr Grant,” he said.

“I also note that the public servant … said: `My recollection might be totally false’ … that is a big qualification,” Mr Rudd said.

He also noted that the public servant had indicated he didn’t have the email in question.

US fears North Korea missile launch on Hawaii

The US military beefed up its Hawaii defenses Friday over fears Pyongyang may launch a missile at the Pacific island chain, as it tracked a North Korean ship possibly carrying banned cargo.

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The vessel, which has been monitored for days, is the first to be tracked under UN sanctions imposed last week after North Korea’s underground nuclear test on May 25.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday there were concerns that North Korea might “launch a missile… in the direction of Hawaii.”

He said he had approved the deployment of THAAD missile defense weapons to Hawaii and a radar system nearby “to provide support” in case of a North Korean launch. Ground-based defenses in Alaska were also ready, Gates added.

“I would just say I think we are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory,” he said.

The Theatre High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapons, coupled with the radar system, are designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.

US and South Korean officials have said North Korea might be readying another ballistic missile test after three launches in 1998, 2006 and this year.

Pyongyang said its latest April 5 launch put a satellite into orbit. The United States and its allies labeled it a disguised test of a Taepodong-2 missile theoretically capable of reaching Alaska.

Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper this week quoted Japanese defense ministry sources as saying any new test of North Korea’s two or three stage Taepodong-2 missile would probably be fired toward Hawaii even if it could not hit the island chain.

It quoted the ministry as saying the Taepodong-2 has a range of 4,000-6,500 kilometers (2,500-4,000 miles), but that Hawaii is more than 7,000 kilometers from the Korean peninsula.

The ministry’s analysis said it was “most likely” the North’s next missile test directed toward Hawaii could take place between July 4 and 8, the daily said.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high since Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test last month.

A US defense official confirmed that the military has been monitoring a North Korean ship, the Kang Nam, that might be carrying nuclear or missile-related cargo in violation of new UN sanctions.

“There is a particular ship that we are closely monitoring,” the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The US military has long kept a close watch on ships heading in and out of North Korea, but the new UN resolution means “we have newfound authorities and responsibilities,” the official said.

The UN resolution calls for inspections of ships but rules out the use of military force to back up the searches.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the top US military officer said the United States would “vigorously enforce” Security Council resolution 1874.

If the ship refuses the search, then the vessel would be directed to a nearby port, Mullen told a news conference with Gates.

Mullen would not confirm whether the military was tracking a particular North Korean vessel.

The United Nations resolution calls on member states to inspect ships if there are “reasonable grounds” that a vessel may be carrying illicit cargo.

Analysts say however that North Korea could get around the shipping measures by transporting banned cargo by air and exploiting provisions that prohibit the use of military force.

However, experts say the financial sanctions in the UN resolution could prove more effective against the isolated Stalinist state.

On June 13, the North vowed to build more nuclear bombs and start enriching uranium for a new atomic weapons program, in response to the new UN sanctions. It has not yet demonstrated the ability to put a nuclear warhead on one of its ballistic missiles.

The United States said Thursday it is looking into five-way talks with China, Russia, Japan and South Korea about pressuring North Korea to change tack on its nuclear and missile programs.

Crash families to get compensation

Air France will give about $A30,440 as an advance to the families of the victims of the crash of Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, the company’s chief executive says.

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Air France lawyers are contacting the families of the 228 victims from 32 countries to make sure the money gets to them, Phillipe Gourgeon said in an interview broadcast on Friday on RTL radio.

Air France also is looking into holding a memorial for all the victims of the May 31 crash, Gourgeon said.

Some families of French victims have accused Air France of a lack of sympathy and of failing to provide them with timely information on the investigation into the causes of the crash.

“We are going to be very focused on the first advance of about 17,000 euros that is paid for each victim,” Gourgeon said. He added that there were no strings attached to accepting the advance.

Contacting the families is no easy matter, Gourgeon said. Sometimes the only contact number for a victim is from a mobile phone that was lost in the crash.

He said the essential objective now was to find the aircraft’s black box flight recorders.

The cause of the crash has not been determined, and the flight recorders could provide the key information the investigators need.

Gourgeon also said that difficulties that have emerged in the exchange of information between representatives of France’s air accident investigation agency, BEA, and Brazilian medical authorities conducting autopsies on the recovered bodies were being resolved.

On Thursday, the president of France’s Senate also had said he was sure that friction between experts from his country and Brazil would soon be resolved and had assured families of victims they would be indemnified.

Autopsies have revealed fractures in the legs, hips and arms of Air France Flight 447 victims, injuries that – along with the large pieces of wreckage pulled from the Atlantic – strongly suggest the plane broke up in the air, experts have said.

With more than 400 pieces of debris recovered from the ocean’s surface, the top French investigator expressed optimism earlier this week about determining what brought down the plane. Paul-Louis Arslanian also called the search conditions – far from land in very deep water – “one of the worst situations ever known in an accident investigation.”

French and US officials have said there were no signs of terrorism, and Brazil’s defence minister said the possibility was not considered. But France says it has not been ruled out.

‘World is watching’ Obama warns Iran

US President Barack Obama warned Iran that the ‘world is watching’ its actions, and said the United States stood with those seeking ‘peaceful’ justice in the post-election tumult.

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Obama appeared to send a nuanced message to opposition demonstrators hours after the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded an end to street protests.

US condemns violence, support for peaceful protest

Despite assurances by top officials that Washington would not inject itself into the crisis, both houses of the US Congress voted to condemn violence against demonstrators by the government of Iran.

“I’m very concerned based on some of the tenor — and tone of the statements that have been made — that the government of Iran recognize that the world is watching,” Obama said in an interview with CBS News.

“And how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is and — and is not,” Obama said in an interview with CBS.

Obama, who this month made a major address to the Muslim world from Cairo, said that the United States stood behind those in Iran who sought peaceful justice — but took pains to stress he was not intervening in the crisis.

Asked whether he had a message to the demonstrators, Obama replied “I absolutely do.

“We stand behind those who are seeking justice in a peaceful way.

“We stand with those who would look to peaceful resolution of conflict and we believe that the voices of people have to be heard.”

The president also attempted to debunk claims by some in the Iranian leadership that the opposition demonstrators were acting at the behest of the United States which has had a long history of antagonism with Iran.

“Let’s understand that this notion that somehow these hundreds of thousands of people who are pouring into the streets in Iran are somehow responding to the West or the United States.

“That’s an old distraction that I think has been trotted out periodically. And that’s just not going to fly.”

‘This is not about us’

Obama’s comments came as the crisis swiftly unfolded in Iran, a week after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad drew claims from his rival Mir Hossein Mousavi of massive vote fraud.

Senior US officials earlier stressed that Washington was making strenuous efforts to avoid being drawn into the crisis — in a way that could be used by the government against the demonstrators.

“The more the United States looks like they are going to interfere, the more it is going to be detrimental,” said one official on condition of anonymity.

“This is not about us.”

Asked about the more vociferous criticisms of Iran by European powers, including France, an official said that those US allies did not have the same kind of tortured relationship with Iran that Washington did.

The House resolution, which passed by 405 votes to one, expressed “its support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law.”

It also “condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication through interference with the Internet and cell phones.”

Democrat Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, said the bill was not a “judgment on who won the Iranian elections.”

“It is an acknowledgement that we cannot remain silent when cherished, universal principles are under attack.”

A similar measure passed by voice vote in the Senate.

Khamenei demanded an end to protests that have rocked Tehran for the past week, warning that otherwise there could be further bloodshed beyond the seven deaths reported by state radio.

Iranian opposition to keep up protests

Iran’s opposition planned to defy a ban on a new rally to be addressed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s main rival after the nation’s supreme leader demanded an end to street protests.

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Tehran has witnessed daily demonstrations since the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad last week drew claims from his rival Mir Hossein Mousavi of massive vote fraud.

Khamenei backs vote

Siding with Ahmadinejad in his first public appearance since the June 12 election, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out major fraud in the poll, warning defeated candidates would be held accountable over fresh street violence.

“The people have chosen whom they wanted,” Khamenei said in a sermon at weekly prayers in Tehran Friday, referring to Ahmadinejad.

“I see some people more suitable for serving the country than others but the people made their choice,” he said to cheers from tens of thousands of faithful, who included Ahmadinejad.

World is watching: Obama

After the sermon US President Barack Obama warned Iran that the “world is watching” its actions.

“I’m very concerned based on some of the tenor — and tone of the statements that have been made — that the government of Iran recognise that the world is watching,” Obama said on US television.

“And how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is and — and is not,” Obama said.

Obama also attempted to debunk claims by some in the Iranian leadership that the opposition demonstrators were acting at the behest of the United States, which has had a long history of antagonism with Iran.

Senior US officials earlier stressed that Washington was making strenuous efforts to avoid being drawn into the crisis in a way that could be used by the government against the demonstrators.

“The more the United States looks like they are going to interfere, the more it is going to be detrimental,” said one official on condition of anonymity.

“This is not about us.”

Despite assurances by top officials that Washington would not inject itself into the crisis, both houses of the US Congress voted to condemn violence against demonstrators by the government of Iran.

A House resolution expressed “its support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law.”

Democrat Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, said: “It is an acknowledgement that we cannot remain silent when cherished, universal principles are under attack.”

A similar measure passed by voice vote in the Senate.

Fresh demands for new election

Iran’s reformist former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi meanwhile became the second losing candidate to demand a new election, in a letter to the electoral watchdog the Guardians Council.

Ahmadinejad’s principal challenger Mousavi, a former prime minister, has repeatedly demanded a re-run of the poll, denouncing the election as a “shameful fraud.”

But Khamenei said there could be no doubting Ahmadinejad’s re-election to a second four-year term, despite the 646 alleged poll violations registered by the three defeated candidates with the Guardians Council.

“The legal mechanisms in our country do not allow cheating. How can one cheat with a margin of 11 million votes?”

Supreme leader demands protests end

Khamenei demanded an end to protests that have rocked Tehran for the past week, warning that otherwise there could be further bloodshed beyond the seven deaths reported by state radio.

Amnesty International said on Friday it had information on up to 10 deaths in post-election protests.

In the evening witnesses reported that many members of the hardline Basij militia deployed in Tehran streets, for the first time in full uniform, wearing helmets, carrying clubs and some of them Kalashnikov rifles.

Mousavi and two other defeated candidates have been invited to set out their grievances before the Guardians Council on Saturday.

The council said it will make its decision about any recount on Sunday.

International concern mounts

World powers expressed renewed concern about the post-election violence and widespread arrests, with EU leaders urging Iran on Friday to respect the right to protest.

But in the face of the regime’s biggest crisis since the 1979 revolution overthrew the pro-Western shah, Iran’s Islamic rulers have repeatedly lashed out at “meddling” by foreign powers.

Khamenei renewed the charge on Friday, singling out Britain.

“Today, top diplomats of several Western countries who talked to us so far within diplomatic formalities are showing their real face and most of all, the British government,” he said.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband insisted he would not allow Khamenei to turn the Tehran protests into a “battle” between Britain and Iran.