President Obama on Protests in Iran: "It Would Be Wrong for Me to Be Silent"

"It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be," President Obama said this afternoon, underlining "that we respect Iranian sovereignty."

The president added, however, that he is "deeply troubled by the violence I have been seeing on television. I think that the, the democratic process, free speech, the ability for people to peacefully dissent, all those are universal values and need to be respected."

Mr. Obama said the US "will continue to pursue a tough direct dialogue between our two countries and we’ll see where it takes us. But even as we do so, it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we’ve seen on the television over the last few days and what I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was."

The president said the disputed election would not change his belief in greater diplomatic efforts with Iran.

“I have always felt that, as odious as I feel some of President Ahmadinejad ‘s statements (are), as deep as the differences that exist between the United States and Iran on core issues, the use of tough hard headed diplomacy, diplomacy without illusions, is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of national security interests," the president said. “We will continue to pursue a tough direct dialogue between our two countries.”

He added that the United States had no observers watching the election so he could not comment on allegations of fraud. He noted that the Iranian government promised an investigation, and said he hoped it would be done fairly and without any further violence.

- jpt

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