Farewell, Ahmadinejad

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner JUNE 14, 2013
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Iran votes for a new president, U.S. mulls no-fly zone for Syria, and wife spying roils Czech government. Today is Friday, June 14, a good time to #FF our Reuters colleagues covering Iran, @yjtorbati and @Maxigy. Here is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Men stand in line to vote during the Iranian presidential election at a mosque in Qom, 75 miles south of Tehran, June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Fars News/Mohammad Akhlagi

Iran picks one of six. Millions of Iranians voted today for Iranís next president, urged by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to go to the polls in defiance of U.S. claims that the election lacks credibility:

The 50 million eligible voters had a choice between six candidates to replace incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but none is seen as challenging the Islamic Republicís 34-year-old system of clerical rule. The first presidential poll since a disputed 2009 contest led to months of unrest is unlikely to change rocky ties between the West and the OPEC nation of 75 million, but it may bring a softening of the antagonistic style favored by Ahmadinejad. World powers in talks with Iran over its nuclear program are looking for any signs of a recalibration of its negotiating stance after eight years of intransigence under Ahmadinejad.

The Interior Ministry said that voting would be extended for several hours beyond 13:30 GMT, when polls were initially scheduled to close. It is hard to predict the outcome due to a lack of reliable polls. But the top candidates include Hassan Rohani, the only moderate candidate; Saeed Jalili, Iranís top nuclear negotiator; and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran. A high voter turnout and the hardlinersí failure to choose a unity candidate could benefit Rohani. For live coverage of Iranís election, click here.

Over Obamaís red line. The United States is considering imposing a no-fly zone in Syria after determining that Assadís forces used chemical weapons on the opposition, according to two sources in Washington, crossing what President Obama has called a ďred lineĒ:

After months of deliberation, President Barack Obamaís administration said on Thursday it would now arm rebels, having obtained proof the Syrian government used chemical weapons against fighters trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Two senior Western diplomats said Washington is looking into a no-fly zone close to Syriaís southern border with Jordan.

Washington placed missiles, war planes and more than 4,000 troops in Jordan over the past week as part of an annual exercise, but implied that they could remain in the region if the U.S. decides to take military action. Russia said it did not find the chemical weapons report to be credible. Obama is expected to try to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to give up support for Assad during next weekís G8 meeting.

Wife-spying woes. Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas is in the hot seat for charges that his close associate hired an investigator to spy on Necasí wife. Necas won on an anti-corruption platform when he ran for office, a position he might regret now as the opposition threatens to call a vote of no confidence in an effort to crack down on government sleaze:

Necas was clinging on to office on Friday after prosecutors accused his personal assistant of being at the center of a corrupt web of political favors and secret surveillanceÖ [on Wednesday] hundreds of police with the organized crime unit, some in balaclavas to conceal their identity, swept through the government headquarters, the defense ministry, a bank and private homes, detaining several Necas associates. He was drawn even deeper into the affair on Friday when prosecutors, giving details of their investigation for the first time, alleged the existence of corrupt dealings that intersected with Necasís personal and political life.

Necas refuses to consider resignation. Czech president Milos Zeman could use the scandal to remove the prime minister, a political rival, from the government.

Nota Bene: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan takes a more conciliatory tone with protesters by offering to put controversial park plans on hold.