By Ian Swanson - 06/19/09 11:51 AM EDT
The House overwhelmingly approved a resolution Friday in support of Iranian dissidents as that country’s top cleric warned protesters to end demonstrations.
The resolution was approved in a 405-1 vote, with two members voting present. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was the only lawmaker opposed to the resolution. Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and David Loebsack (D-Iowa) voted present.
Berman sponsored the resolution with Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.).
Iran has been consumed by demonstrations protesting the election of Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad since last weekend. Opposition candidates have insisted the election was rigged for Ahmadinejad.
But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, on Friday offered his strongest defense yet of the election, and warned of repercussions if demonstrations continued. He said opposition leaders will be “responsible for bloodshed and chaos” if they do not stop further rallies, according to a report in The New York Times.
The comments suggested Iran’s authorities are prepared to end the demonstrations with force if they persist.
“We are extremely disturbed at statements made by Ayatollah Khamenei which seem to give the green light to security forces to violently handle protesters exercising their right to demonstrate and express their views," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.
In Washington, the debate has centered on whether President Obama should be more forceful in criticizing Iranian authorities, and in showing support for the demonstrators.
The issue has put Obama in a tough spot, with conservatives blasting him for not showing more support for demonstrators, and Iran criticizing the U.S. and Obama for meddling in its affairs.
Obama has sought to find a middle ground to prevent Iran from blaming the demonstrations on the U.S.
Some lawmakers during the debate on the resolution said Congress must be careful not to hurt the demonstrators.
“It’s important to not allow the Congress to be used in what is essentially an internal fight in Iran,” said Ellison, one of two Muslim members of Congress. He said Congress should “not allow ourselves to be used” against the people it is trying to protect.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) acknowledged the fight is an internal debate in Iran, but said that country is “run by theocrats” and urged support for the resolution.
This story was updated at 12:05 p.m.