President Obama Holds a Media Availability Following Meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Tuesday, June 23, 2009; 11:23 AM
(JOINED IN PROGRESS) ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER SILVIO BERLUSCONI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): ... accuracy with which he discusses all of the issues and the positions that he expresses are not only in related (ph) positions looking at a different future, but they're always very concrete and absolutely based on common sense. And it is extremely comforting and a pleasure to see that the destiny of the biggest democracy in the world is in very good hands.
OBAMA: I hope my staff will have caught that.
Gibbs, write that down.
Let me call on a couple people.
QUESTION: Mr. President, on Iran, does the disputed election results and the fact that there's been violence on the streets in any way change your willingness to meet with Mr. Ahmadinejad without preconditions? And also, do you have anything to say -- any message to send to people who are in the streets protesting who believe their votes were stolen and who are being attacked violently?
TRANSLATOR: (SPEAKING IN ITALIAN)
OBAMA: OK, I want to say this straight through. Then you can translate at the end.
Obviously, all of us have been watching the news from Iran, and I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be, that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes the United States can be a handy political football or discussions with the United States.
Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television. I think that the -- the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent, all those are universal values and need to be respected.
And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting and whenever the American people see that, I think they're rightfully troubled.
My understanding is, is that the Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place. We weren't on the ground. We did not have observers there. We did not have international observers on -- on hand, so I can't state definitively one way or another what happened with respect to the election.