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Protests during Iran visit put Gul in tight spot

Protests during Iran visit put Gul in tight spot

President Abdullah Gul's first official visit to Iran this week coincided with a protest rally in which one person was killed and dozens were wounded, leaving him in a difficult position over what stance to take. Gul – who met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani to discuss ties – said on Monday that governments in the Middle East should listen to the demands of their people, but made no reference to Iran. "When leaders and heads of countries do not pay attention to the demands of their nations, the people themselves take action to achieve their demands," he said at a joint news conference alongside Ahmadinejad, commenting on recent popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Later in the day, during a late-night meeting with Turkish journalists, Gul again avoided directly commenting on the Iranian rallies held in support of the Egyptian and Tunisian protests. When the reporters said cell phone networks and Internet connections were down due to restrictions imposed by Iranian authorities to prevent the spread of the demonstrations, Gul did appear to criticize the restrictions, saying: "Cell phone networks can be shut down, but television shows everything. Actions that run counter to the will of the people should be avoided." Gul's official delegation was also impacted by the restrictions, and essential communication with the Foreign Ministry and Gul's office in Ankara was conducted through a telegraph service at the Turkish Embassy in Tehran. The protests appeared to have ended yesterday, with life back to normal in Tehran's streets and other cities.

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