ISTANBUL - The disputed elections in Iran divide world with some accepting the re-election of hard-line president, but others slamming alleged vote-rigging and the harsh response of security forces to opposition rallies. US President Obama’s reaction to Iranian rallies stirs a fierce debate in Washington
International opinion is roughly divided between the Western line - a pro-democratic stance that implies or levels criticism at Iran's leadership - and economic allies, mostly among developing nations, that accept the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Whatever the view, governments and commentators appear transfixed by the drama unfolding in Iran, where hundreds of thousands of supporters of pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi have challenged the old order in street protests unseen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Some democracies, including the U.S., have been cautious, calling for the will of the Iranian people to be respected without overtly taking a side. Others have scolded the Iranian leadership, condemning alleged vote-rigging and the harsh response of security forces to opposition rallies.
President Barack Obama has expressed "concern for the way the election was conducted and concern to ensure that demonstrators can peaceably carry out their demonstrations," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.
But, there has been fierce debate in Washington about Obama's reaction to the Iran protests - with some saying he has not given enough support to the Tehran demonstrators. By minimizing policy differences between incumbent Ahmadinejad Mousavi, Obama has angered conservatives and put the White House and some Democrats, reported Agence France-Presse.
In China, Venezuela and some other developing countries have tended to be supportive of the government in Iran, whose nuclear activities, alleged involvement in terrorism and influence in regional conflicts have alarmed the West for years.
Mindful of such accusations, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the Iranian people must choose their own leaders and that London would "not fall into the trap of allowing anyone to say that Britain or the United States is trying to choose the government of Iran."
Israel, a longtime foe of Iran, has described the government there as repressive. But Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Thursday that there is a policy not to comment further on the situation in Iran.
Canadian PMStephen Harper delivered one of the West's strongest condemnations, calling Iran's behavior "unacceptable" and urging it to respect human rights and democracy. Similarly, French President Nicolas Sarkozy denounced the Iranian government's "brutal" reaction to demonstrators protesting the disputed election. In Cuba, state-controlled media has provided extensive coverage of Ahmadinejad declaring electoral victory. There has been no mention of massive opposition protests.