In his sharpest comment yet against the Iranian regime, US President Barack Obama called for an end to "violent and unjust actions" against the Iranian people, as clashes on the streets of Tehran mount in intensity.
AFP - US President Barack Obama called on Iran's government Saturday to stop "violent and unjust" action against its own people, in his sharpest challenge yet to top leader on a day of bloodshed and violence.
Obama issued a written statement stiffening his position on the turmoil, after a week seeking to find the right tone to recognize unprecedented protests in Iran while avoiding being seen to meddle in Iranian affairs.
"We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people," Obama said, as protestors clashed in defiance of an order from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for an end to protests.
"The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost," Obama said.
"The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights," said Obama.
Obama also referenced his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo earlier this month, when he warned Iran's leaders "suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away."
The president also stressed that if Iran's leadership wants the respect of the international community "it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion."
The president's remarks followed a week of careful statements on the crisis which erupted following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election victory over candidates including Mir Hossein Mousavi.
An administration official said that Obama "repeatedly met" in the White House Saturday with senior advisors to discuss the situation in Iran.
The US president also quoted Martin Luther King Jr in his statement, repeating the slain US civil rights leader's phrase that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
"I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples' belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness," Obama said.
Saturday's statement was issued as hundreds of protesters gathered in Los Angeles, New York and outside the White House to show their support for Iran's opposition.
Many protestors wore green, a color that has become symbolic of the campaign of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader who claims he won the vote.
Outside the White House, demonstrator Babek Talebi praised Obama's public handling of the crisis.
"We don't want US politicians to make a political football with Iran," Talebi said. "Iran has changed for good, it's not going to be the same," he added.
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the largest organization of Iranian-Americans in the United States, condemned the Iranian government, and backed Obama's position.
"The only plausible way to end the violence is for new elections to be held with independent monitors ensuring its fairness. Such elections would be consistent with the Iranian constitution.
"We support President Obama's decision not to take sides in the disputed election, particularly in the absence of any candidate calling upon him to do so.
"At the same time, the White House needs to speak vociferously against the bloodshed taking place before our eyes."
Despite assurances by top officials that Washington would not inject itself into the crisis, both houses of the US Congress on Friday voted to condemn violence against demonstrators by the government of Iran.
The House resolution, which passed by 405 votes to one, expressed "its support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law."
It also "condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication through interference with the Internet and cell phones."
A similar measure passed by voice vote in the Senate.
Date created : 2009-06-21