U.S. President Barack Obama and other Western leaders are condemning Iran's use of deadly force in the latest crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. The clashes in Tehran and elsewhere have left at least eight people dead and prompted another wave of arrests of prominent reformists.
Interrupting his Hawaii vacation, President Obama was blunt in addressing recent developments in Iran. "The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries and even death," he said.
Mr. Obama said the Iranian people's exercise of universal rights has been met with brutality. He said the world stands in admiration of the courage and conviction displayed by Iranians in the face of repression. "What is taking place in Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It is about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life for themselves. And the decision of Iran's leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away," he said.
The president called on Iranian authorities to respect the rights of citizens and to free those who have been unjustly detained, adding that the United States will continue to bear witness to events in the country.
Earlier, the European Union criticized Iran's violent suppression of its citizens who were exercising their right to free speech and peaceful assembly. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the actions of Iranian security forces as unacceptable, while Britain's Foreign Secretary deemed violence tragic and disturbing.
Russia's response has been more muted. A traditional ally of Iran, Russia has expressed concern about bloodshed and called for restraint.
Iranian authorities have denied firing on demonstrators who took to the streets in recent days, and said that the only deaths recorded during the confrontations came through accidents. Appearing on state-run Iranian television, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made reference to an often repeated claim that foreign elements are behind public disturbances in the country.
Amateur video posted on the Internet and shared with the Voice of America appears to contradict the assertions of Iranian officials on the use of deadly force.
In Washington on Sunday, dozens of mostly Iranian-American activists led a vigil and demonstration in front of the White House to draw attention to the latest bloodshed in Iran and rally support for the country's reformist movement.
Some demonstrators urged a more forceful U.S. response to events in Iran. In the aftermath of Iran's contested presidential vote in June, the Obama administration did not explicitly endorse Iranian opposition charges of fraud, and Mr. Obama has not ruled out dealing with President Ahmadinejad on sensitive issues such as Iran's nuclear program.
At the London-based Center for Arab and Iranian Studies, analyst Ali Nourizadeh says reformist Iranians are growing impatient and disillusioned with Mr. Obama. "Every single person I talk to [in Iran] criticizes President Obama's policies," he said. "They say they look at the United States and the U.S. president as the champion of human rights and democracy. [They ask:] 'Why doesn't the U.S. do something [to bring change to Iran]?'"
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says that it is not for the United States to pass judgment on the legitimacy of Iran's government, and that President Obama does not want the United States to become a "political football" in Iran.