Peres backs Iranian protesters
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Peres backs Iranian protesters

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Shimon Peres voiced his support for the protesters in Iran.

"The Iranian people are trying to reclaim their culture’s image," Peres said Sunday during a speech at the Jewish Agency meeting in Jerusalem. "Let the young people speak. Let the women — such a courageous group — voice their thirst for equality.

"You never know what will disappear in Iran first — their enriched uranium or the wretched government. We hope it’s the government," he said amid reports of continuing unrest in Tehran.

Iranian official state television estimated Sunday that some 19 protesters had been killed, according to reports, though some have estimated the number to be well over 100. Police in Iran say they have rounded up 170 reformist leaders.

Appearing Sunday on NBC’s "Meet the Press," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he supported President Obama’s handling of the situation, which has been criticized by members of Congress.

Netanyahu stressed that while Israel and much of the world support the protesters and want a change in government in Iran, it is most important to prevent the sitting government from developing nuclear weapons. The Israeli leader said he believes Obama is committed to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

"We all don’t want to see this regime acquiring nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said, going on to say, "It’s not merely an interest of Israel. It’s my view that there’s an American commitment to make sure that doesn’t happen."

Netanyahu added that Israel "always reserves the right to defend itself. We are threatened as no other people are threatened."

The American Jewish Committee on Saturday condemned  "the brutal repression directed by the Iranian regime against millions of Iranian citizens protesting the apparent fixing of the June 12 presidential elections," according to a statement.

"The distressing scenes from Iran seen around the world — despite the best efforts of the regime to censor the media — expose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the hypocrite and the thug we’ve always known him to be," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "What the repression on the streets of Tehran showcases is the simple fact that today the Iranian regime, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and supported by President Ahmadinejad, maintains its power through terror and violence."

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad on Sunday warned the United States and Britain to stop interfering in his country’s internal affairs, the state-run ISNA news agency reported.

"They [Western countries] want to portray as small the great and powerful position that has been created for the Iranian nation inside and outside after the recent election, by which of course they made a mistake and they showed they still do not know the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad reportedly said during a meeting with clerics.