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Obama urges Iran to stop 'unjust actions'

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U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner in Washington on June 19, 2009 (UPI Photo/Alexis C. Glenn) | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/923d9f9e3748dffc0f30a57bde8df3c2/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner in Washington on June 19, 2009 (UPI Photo/Alexis C. Glenn) | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 20 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama Saturday called on Iran to "stop all violent and unjust actions" against protesters amid reports demonstrators had been killed.

In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said Iranian officials "must understand that the world is watching" and the United States mourns "each and every innocent life that is lost." CNN reported hospital sources said there were at least 19 dead and unconfirmed reports of as many as 150.

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"We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people," 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."

The president said it is up to the Iranian people to "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," he said.

The statement is somewhat more definitive than Obama's previous public statements on demonstrations in Iran, where huge crowds have protested the conduct of the vote count in last week's president election.

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Before the White House released the statement Saturday, unnamed administration officials were saying White House would be willing to reconsider its careful tone toward protests in Iran should there be a widespread crackdown. The officials had said the administration would continue to resist calls to get tough with Iran in support of pro-democracy demonstrators unless Tehran institutes more sweeping or violent tactics to quell them, The New York Times reported.

Obama worked Friday to keep Democrats from breaking openly with him on Iran as pressure mounted on the White House from congressional Republicans and conservative foreign-policy experts to condemn Tehran's response to the protests over the election results that gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term.

Administration sources told the Times Obama had not been swayed by calls from European leaders or even Democratic colleagues that he should respond more assertively. The sources said Obama is determined to react to events as they unfold.

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