Obama to Iran: 'Stop the violence'

After days of weathering criticism from Congress that he is not doing enough, President Obama on Saturday said that the Iranian government should "stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people."

The unrest and violence in Iran began a week ago following the country's disputed presidential elections, and Republicans in particular have blasted the president for sitting on the sidelines.

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The White House has repeatedly said that it is taking the right path by condemning the violence and encouraging a people's right to peaceful protest, but the president and his advisors have also said that the appearance of the U.S. "meddling" in Iranian affairs would be counterproductive.

On Friday, the House passed a near unanimous resolution in support of the dissenters and condeming Iran for the violence.

Obama used some of his toughest language yet Saturday, despite his administration's concerns about providing fodder for the ruling Iranian government to paint the struggle as a battle between the U.S. and Iran.

"The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching," Obama said in a statement. "We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost."

Obama also expressed firm solidarity with the protesters.

"The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to excercise those rights," he said.

Noting some of the remarks he made to the nation of Islam during a speech in Egypt earlier this month, Obama said Iran faces international condemnation for the images of violence that are being broadcast around the world.

"As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away," the president said. "The Iranian people will ultimately 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, and not coercion."

The White House said Obama has been meeting with senior advisors and receiving intelligence updates throughout the day.