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Obama slams Iran, leaves opening to engage

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama condemned the "unjust actions" of the Iranian government, but said it can still engage with the United States and the international community.

"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 large community that has responsibilites and operates acccording to norms and international rules that are universal," Obama said Tuesday at a White House news conference. "We don’t know how they’re going to respond yet."

Obama also said that if Iran chooses such a path, "we are interested in healing some of the wounds of 30 years in terms of U.S.-Iranian relations," but "that’s the choice the Iranians are going to have to make."

The U.S. leader added that "what we’ve been seeing over the last couple of weeks is not encouraging in terms of the path this regime may choose to take."

Obama used his strongest language to describe the situation in the Islamic Republic, saying the United States was "appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days."

The president also called "patently false and absurd" Iran’s accusations that the United States and others are instigating the protests, calling them "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," Obama said.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed foreign "enemies," including "the media belonging to Zionists," for the protests by supporters of presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi in a June 19 speech. The protesters are demonstrating against what they say was the rigged re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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