White House 'deeply concerned' over violence in China

The White House said Monday that President Obama is "deeply concerned" about reports of significant violence in western China, but said it is premature "to comment or speculate further."

Reports out of Urumqi put the death toll at more than 150 after ethnic tensions flared and protests were touched off by ethnic Muslim Uighurs. The White House urged all in the restive Xinjiang province "to exercise restraint."

Obama, who is in Russia meeting with leaders there, said earlier in the day that he could not comment on the matter because he had been traveling and in meetings and had yet to be briefed.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, in a statement issued from Russia, said the president is "deeply concerned over reports of many deaths and injuries from violence in Urumqi in western China."

"Reports, so far, are unclear about the circumstances surrounding the deaths and injuries, so it would be premature to comment or speculate further," Gibbs said. "We call on all in Xinjiang to exercise restraint."

Obama is scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Italy at the G8 meeting later this week.