Of­fi­cial: Is­rael alone to de­cide on Iran

The Washington Times Daily - - World -

JERUSALEM | Is­rael’s for­eign min­is­ter said Sun­day that U.S. pres­sure will not af­fect Is­raeli think­ing on how to cope with the threat posed by Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

Avig­dor Lieber­man de­liv­ered his as­sess­ment on the eve of a key meet­ing be­tween Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and Pres­i­dent Obama at the White House.

Both coun­tries be­lieve Iran is de­vel­op­ing the ca­pa­bil­ity to pro­duce nu­clear weapons, but di­vi­sions have emerged on how to con­front the threat. Is­rael has sent a se­ries of sig­nals re­cently that mil­i­tary ac­tion may be needed to stop the Ira­ni­ans.

The U.S., while not rul­ing out the threat of force, has said that tough new Western eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed on Iran must be given time to work. Iran claims its pro­gram is for peace­ful pur­poses. cent, and the other three can­di­dates — Lib­eral Demo­crat Vladimir Zhiri­novsky, bil­lion­aire Mikhail Prokhorov and A-just-rus­sia can­di­date Sergei Mironov — each won less than 10 per­cent of the vote.

In­de­pen­dent elec­tion watch­dog Go­los said it re­ceived more than 4,000 re­ports of elec­tion vi­o­la­tions by late Sun­day af­ter­noon, in­clud­ing so-called carousel vot­ing, where groups of vot­ers were bused be­tween polling sta­tions to cast mul­ti­ple bal­lots.

Elena Zalim, an elec­tion mon­i­tor at one cen­tral Moscow polling sta­tion, said vot­ing was cleaner than the 2008 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion when she vol­un­teered at the same precinct. She said, how­ever, that she wit­nessed some signs of fraud.

“Around 10 per­cent of the vot­ers here are on so­called ‘ad­di­tional vot­ing lists,’ which al­low peo­ple to vote here, even if they aren’t reg­is­tered in this re­gion,” Ms. Zalim said. “I think these peo­ple are be­ing al­lowed to vote in more than one place.”

Sun­day’s polls were the most closely mon­i­tored of any elec­tion in mod­ern-day Rus­sia, a re­sult of mass vi­o­la­tions un­cov­ered dur­ing par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in De­cem­ber that sparked wide­spread street protests.

Polling sta­tions across the coun­try were staffed with about 28,000 in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tors, and Web cam­eras were in­stalled in most precincts, al­low­ing In­ter­net users to watch the vot­ing live.

Elec­tion of­fi­cials de­nied any vi­o­la­tions, and the cred­i­bil­ity of com­plaints is un­clear, but the large num­ber of al­le­ga­tions could fuel the anti-gov­ern­ment move­ment that au­thor­i­ties hoped would sub­side af­ter the vote.

Since De­cem­ber’s elec­tions, Rus­sia has ex­pe­ri­enced some of the largest protests since the fall of the Soviet Union, with up to 100,000 peo­ple gath­er­ing in three sep­a­rate protests.

The lat­est opin­ion polls pub­lished be­fore Sun­day’s vote sug­gested that Mr. Putin had more than enough sup­port to win the elec­tion in the first round.

His rep­u­ta­tion for bring­ing sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity to Rus­sia af­ter the tur­bu­lent 1990s, and the lack of any strong al­ter­na­tive can­di­date, ap­pears suf­fi­cient to keep his pop­u­lar­ity lev­els high — though not as high as the 70 per­cent of the vote he gar­nered in the 2004 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“I want Putin to be in power for the next six years. It is more com­fort­able that way. I don’t want to see any sud­den changes in this coun­try,” Boris Zh­mikhov, 60, said out­side a polling sta­tion in a res­i­den­tial dis­trict just north of down­town Moscow.

Leg­is­la­tion en­acted since the 2004 elec­tion ex­tends the pres­i­den­tial term to six years in­stead of four. That means Mr. Putin could serve for an­other 12 years if he is of­fi­cially de­clared the vic­tor and wins again in six years.

How­ever, the suc­cess of a new Putin term likely will de­pend on how he han­dles the sim­mer­ing un­rest, which for now is mainly in Moscow and St. Peters­burg.

The frag­mented op­po­si­tion has gained per­mis­sion to hold a 10,000-strong rally Mon­day on cen­tral Moscow’s Pushkin Square and is us­ing al­leged elec­toral vi­o­la­tions to mo­ti­vate more peo­ple to take to the streets.

“Ev­ery­one should go out on the streets wher­ever they want,” anti-cor­rup­tion blog­ger Alexei Navalny told re­porters.

“We have a right to as­sem­ble, and it’s a cit­i­zen’s duty to come out and say that we’re not happy with what’s hap­pened.”

Re­cent op­po­si­tion protests have passed peacefully and with­out ar­rests, but many ob­servers fear a clam­p­down un­der a new Putin pres­i­dency.

Lo­cal me­dia re­ported that the gov­ern­ment de­ployed 36,000 po­lice and army of­fi­cers into the cap­i­tal over the week­end. Truck­loads of riot po­lice trun­dled past the Krem­lin on Sun­day af­ter­noon, ap­par­ently in an­tic­i­pa­tion of post­elec­tion un­rest.

“Peo­ple will only re­ally be­lieve that the elec­tion was hon­est if it goes to a sec­ond round of vot­ing,” Elena Tikhi­nova, a mem­ber of the League of Vot­ers vol­un­teer ob­server group, told The Washington Times.

“If not, I think peo­ple will be very an­gry.”

Mr. Putin, who claimed vic­tory in Rus­sia’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, has tears in his eyes as he watches the mas­sive rally of his sup­port­ers at Manezh Square. “I promised you we would win. We won,” he said. “Glory to Rus­sia.”

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