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President Obama began the session with reporters by directly addressing the Iranian government's violent response to the demonstrations in Tehran.
"The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost," said President Obama.
Mr. Obama has been under pressure from Republicans and Democrats to react more forcefully to Tehran's crackdown on those who are protesting the results of the Iranian elections. But the president said he has taken a more measured approach to avoid the appearance that the United States is meddling in Iranian affairs.
"But only I am the President of the United States. And I have got responsibilities in making certain that we are continually advancing our national security interests, and that we are not used as a tool to be exploited by other countries," he added.
Iranian media report that the government's Guardian Council will not annul the results of last week's election, in which an overwhelming victory was declared for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi said he won, and claimed the election was fraudulent. Mr. Obama said Iran's main concern should not be the U.S. response to the election, but the response of the Iranian people.
"There [are] significant questions about the legitimacy of the election. And so ultimately, the most important thing for the Iranian government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people," Said Mr. Obama.
At least 17 people have been killed in protests since the election. Mr. Obama paid tribute to one of them, a young woman, Neda Agha Soltan. The president said video of her apparent shooting death, circulated worldwide, is a "searing image."
"It's heartbreaking. It's?.it's heartbreaking. And I think that anybody who sees it knows that there is something fundamentally unjust about that," he said.
The president said if Iran chooses a path that abides by international norms and principles, then the United States is interested in healing the wounds of 30 years of bad relations between the countries.