U.S. President Barack Obama says it is up to the people of Iran to determine their nation's future. At the same time, he says he is troubled by the post-election turmoil there and wants to see an end to the bloodshed.
President Obama says he is deeply troubled by the violence in the streets of Iran, as protesters contest what they see as a rigged presidential election.
"I think it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we have seen on the television over the last few days," said President Obama.
Mr. Obama says the people of Iran need to know their ballots mattered. He says an investigation into allegations of vote rigging should go forward without further bloodshed.
"I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent - all those are universal values and need to be respected," said Mr. Obama.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the White House, President Obama stressed that it is difficult for the United States to pass judgment on the running of the Iranian election. He stressed that "it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be."
"We did not have observers there," he said. "We did not have international observers on hand, so I can't state definitively what happened one way or another with respect to the election. But what I can say is there appears to be a sense on the part of people who were so hopeful and so engaged and so committed to democracy, who now feel betrayed."
President Obama did not mention the main candidates in the disputed election by name - President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who has claimed victory or his opponent, reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is challenging the results.
Instead, he chose his words carefully and spoke directly to the protesters.
"What I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy 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," said President Obama.
The president was asked whether the election dispute and related violence had prompted him to change his mind about seeking a dialogue with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Mr. Obama said his position has not changed.
"The use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy - diplomacy with no illusions about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries - is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interests," said Mr. Obama.
President Obama made specific mention of the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and cutting off its support of terrorists abroad. He said those are core interests not only of the United States, but also of the world.