- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2009

President Obama said Monday night he is “deeply troubled” by the protests in the streets of Iran but insisted the disputed elections in Iran do not change his desire to sit down to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to push diplomacy.

He said the United States will continue to pursue a “tough, direct” diplomacy with the nation but believes “it would be wrong for me to be silent” about the violence and suppression of free speech.

“For those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process I would say to them the world is watching and inspired by their participation regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was,” Mr. Obama said during an Oval Office meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr. Obama told reporters that as “odious” as some of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statements have been, “the use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy, diplomacy with no illusions” is “critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interests.”

The president said many voters “now feel betrayed” and added “the ability of people to peacefully dissent” is a “universal value that needs to be respected,” so the world is “rightfully troubled.”

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