Iran recount aims to woo protesters .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} TEHRAN - Tehran undertakes a partial recount of votes in the country’s hotly debated June 12 elections in a move, that aims at soothing supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi. Meanwhile, with a similar motive, the country’s president orders a probe over the killing of Neda Agha Soltan.

In an attempt to placate protesters, Iran conducted a partial recount Monday of votes cast in the country's disputed presidential election, and its hard-line president asked for an investigation into the shooting death of a young woman who has become a potent symbol of the opposition's struggle.

The regime's standoff with the West over its crackdown on demonstrators sharply escalated Sunday when Iran announced it had detained nine local employees of the British Embassy in Tehran. Both Britain and the European Union condemned what they called "harassment and intimidation."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said five of the Iranian embassy staffers had been released and the remaining four were being interrogated. Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseini Ejehi claimed he had videotape showing some of the employees mingling with protesters, and said the fate of those who remain in custody now rests with the court system in a country where supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's word is law. But Qashqavi played down the dispute, saying officials were in written and verbal contact with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Iran had dismissed the idea of downgrading relations. "Reduction of diplomatic ties is not on our agenda for any country, including Britain," The Associated Press quoted Qashqavi as saying.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, asked Iran's cleric-controlled judiciary on Monday to investigate the killing of Neda Agha Soltan, who became an icon of Iran's ragtag opposition after gruesome video of her bleeding to death on a Tehran street was circulated worldwide.

Partial recount of votes

"Given the many fabricated reports around this heartbreaking incident and the widespread propaganda by the foreign media... it seems there is clear interference by the enemies of Iran who want to misuse the situation politically and tarnish the clean image of the Islamic republic," he said in a letter to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.

"Therefore I am asking you to order the judicial authorities to probe the killing of this woman with utmost seriousness and identify and prosecute the elements behind the killing," he said in the letter published by the ISNA news agency, according to an account by Agence France-Presse.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Guardian Council said it planned to complete the recount of a random 10 percent of ballots by the end of the day. "The recount of 10 percent of the ballot boxes is currently under way in various provinces and towns," Guardians Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai said, adding that the result might be announced by the end of the working day. Kadkhodai said the recount was aimed at gaining "the confidence of the respectable supporters of candidates." Yet it was unclear what purpose the recount would serve. Khamenei and the Council already have pronounced the results free of major fraud and Mousavi insisted the government nullify the results.

Despite Ahmadinejad's anti-American rhetoric, the U.S. officials said Sunday that the administration remains open to discussions on Iran's nuclear ambitions. "It's in the U.S.' national interest to make sure that we have employed all elements at our disposal, including diplomacy, to prevent Iran from achieving that nuclear capacity," Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said.