The United States is not taking sides in Friday's presidential elections in Iran even though incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for eliminating Israel.
After State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters at the daily press briefing, “We’re not going to express any preferences,” a journalist asked, “Wouldn’t the United States prefer that Iran had a president who doesn’t say that Israel should be wiped off the face of the planet?”
Kelley repeated, “We’re not going to express any preferences.”
Pressed again that “you have no problem with a president of Iran wanting Israel to be wiped off the face of the map?” Kelly said that American statements “vis-à-vis Israel are clear.”
After again declining to declare whether the Obama administration backs Ahmadinejad or his reform-minded opponent Mir Hossein Mousavi, Kelly said he did not want to get into the issue.
A reporter then suggested to Kelly, “You’re digging yourself into a hole,” to which the spokesman replied, "Well, maybe I should start climbing out of it, then. Any other questions?”
Although the election is being played up as significant, the ultimate power in Iran is held by its religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "The two candidates are different in terms of policy, but the supreme leader makes the ultimate decisions," RAND think tank expert Ali Nader told the Associated Press.
"If Mousavi wins, he won't necessarily be able to change foreign policy but he may be able to improve Iran's image internationally. He could realign policy to a limited extent but I wouldn't expect a great change," Nader added.