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Video and Transcript: Obama Press Conference (23 June)

The Latest from Iran (23 June): Preparing for Thursday

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Two Iran-related clips from today's Presidential press conference, which we live-blogged earlier --- 1) Obama's opening statement and, on the jump page, 2) Obama's response to a set-up question from Nico Putney of The Huffington Post --- followed by the full transcript of the conference.:



PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hello, everybody.

Good afternoon, everybody. Today I want to start by addressing three issues, and then I'll take your questions.

First, I'd like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the 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.

I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran's affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.

The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in Iran -- some in the Iranian government, in particular -- are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others in the West of instigating protests over the election.

These accusations are patently false. They're an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran's borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won't work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they -- and only they -- will choose.

The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That's precisely what's happened in the last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests of justice. Despite the Iranian government's efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers, and so we've watched what the Iranian people are doing.

This is what we've witnessed. We've seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands Iranians marching in silence. We've seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and that their voices heard. Above all, we've seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we've experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent, and not coercion. That's what Iran's own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.

Now the second issue I want to address is our ongoing effort to build a clean energy economy. This week, the House of Representatives is moving ahead on historic legislation that will transform the way we produce and use energy in America. This legislation will spark a clean energy transformation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and confront the carbon pollution that threatens our planet.

This energy bill will create a set of incentives that will spur the development of new sources of energy, including wind, solar and geothermal power. It will also spur new energy savings, like efficient windows and other materials that reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer.

These incentives will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy.

And that will lead to the development of new technologies that lead to new industries that could create millions of new jobs in America -- jobs that can't be shipped overseas.

At a time of great fiscal challenges, this legislation is paid for by the polluters who currently emit the dangerous carbon emissions that contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air that we breathe. It also provides assistance to businesses and communities as they make the gradual transition to clean-energy technologies.

So I believe that this legislation is extraordinarily important for our country. It's taken great effort on the part of many over the course of the past several months. And I want to thank the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Waxman; his colleagues on that committee, including Congressmen Dingell, Ed Markey and Rick Boucher. I also want to thank Charlie Rangel, the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and Collin Peterson, the chair of the Agricultural Committee, for their many and ongoing contributions to this process. And I want to express my appreciation to Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer for their leadership.

We all know why this is so important. The nation that leads in the creation of a clean-energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century's global economy. That's what this legislation seeks to achieve. It's a bill that will open the door to a better future for this nation, and that's why I urge members of Congress to come together and pass it.

The last issue I'd like to address is health care. Right now, Congress is debating various health-care reform proposals. This is obviously a complicated issue, but I am very optimistic about the progress that they're making.

Like energy, this is legislation that must and will be paid for. It will not add to our deficits over the next decade. We will find the money through savings and efficiencies within the health-care system -- some of which we've already announced. We will also ensure that the reform we pass brings down the crushing cost of health care. We simply can't have a system where we throw good money after bad habits.

We need to control the skyrocketing costs that are driving families, businesses and our government into greater and greater debt.

There's no doubt that we must preserve what's best about our health care system, and that means allowing Americans who like their doctors and their health-care plans to keep them. But unless we fix what's broken in our current system, everyone's health care will be in jeopardy.

Unless we act, premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, and the rolls of the uninsured will swell to include millions more Americans. Unless we act, one out of every five dollars that we earn will be spent on health care within a decade, and the amount our government spends on Medicare and Medicaid will eventually grow larger than what our government spends on everything else today.

When it comes to health care, the status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable. So reform's not a luxury, it's a necessity. And I hope the Congress will continue to make significant progress on this issue in the weeks ahead.

So let me open it up for questions. And I'll start with you, Jennifer.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Your administration has said that the offer to talk to Iran's leaders remains open. Can you say if that's still so, even with all the violence that has been committed by the government against the people, protesters. And if it is, is there any red line that your administration won't cross, where that offer will be shut off?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, obviously, what's happened in Iran is profound. And we're still waiting to see how it plays itself out. My position coming into this office has been that the United States has core national security interests in making sure that Iran doesn't possess a nuclear weapon and it stops exporting terrorism outside of its borders.

We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage, and become a part of international norms. It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path.

What we've been seeing over the last several days, the last couple of weeks, obviously is not encouraging in terms of the path that this regime may choose to take. And the fact that they are now in the midst of an extraordinary debate taking place in Iran, you know, may end up coloring how they respond to the international community as a whole.

We are going to monitor and see how this plays itself out before we make any judgments about how we proceed. But just to reiterate, there is a path available to Iran in which their sovereignty is respected, their traditions, their culture, their faith is respected, but one in which they are part of a larger community that has responsibilities and operates according to norms and international rules that are universal. We don't know how they're going to respond yet, and that's what we're waiting to see.

Q So should there be consequences for what's happened so far?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that the international community is, as I said before, bearing witness to what's taking place. And the Iranian government should understand that how they handle the dissent within their own country generated indigenously, internally from the Iranian people, will help shape the tone not only for Iran's future but also its relationship to other countries.

Since we're on Iran, I know Nico Pitney is here from Huffington Post.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Nico, I know that you, and all across the Internet, we've been seeing a lot of reports coming directly out of Iran. I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. What -- do you have a question?

Q Yeah, I did, but I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian. We solicited questions last night from people who are still courageous enough to be communicating online, and one of them wanted to ask you this: Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad? And if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn't that a betrayal of what the demonstrators there are working towards?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, we didn't have international observers on the ground. We can't say definitively what exactly happened at polling places throughout the country. What we know is that a sizable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, consider this election illegitimate. It's not an isolated instance, a little grumbling here or there. There is 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, not in the eyes of the United States. And that's why I've been very clear, ultimately this is up to the Iranian people to decide who their leadership is going to be and the structure of their government.

What we can do is to say unequivocally that there are sets of international norms and principles about violence, about dealing with the -- peaceful dissent, that -- that spans cultures, spans borders.

And what we've been seeing over the Internet and what we've been seeing in news reports violates those norms and violates those principles. I think it is not too late for the Iranian government to recognize that there is a peaceful path that will lead to stability and legitimacy and prosperity for the Iranian people. We hope they take it.

Read rest of transcript....