U.S. President Barack Obama called the Iranian government on Saturday to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people, according to a post on the White House's website.
Obama released the statement amid reports that confrontations between protesters and police in Tehran left 19 people dead, according to hospital sources, CNN reported today. The protesters are disputing results of last week's presidential elections in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won. Protesters favoring opposition candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi say the election was rigged.
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching, Obama said in the statement.
The Ministry of Culture on Saturday banned international media from reporting on the protests unless they received permission from Iranian authorities, CNN said.
Below is the statement released today by President Obama:
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.
Martin Luther King once said - 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 peoplesâ€™ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.