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Obama Toughens Rhetoric On Iran Violence

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the James S. B...

Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Above: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House June 23, 2009 in Washington, DC.

— President Obama on Tuesday offered his strongest wording yet on the post-election unrest in Iran, declaring that he "condemned" the violence that has accompanied protests.

"The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days," Obama said. "I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost."

The president's comments came Tuesday afternoon during a nationally televised White House press conference that had been convened, in part, to bolster the stalled fortunes of his health care overhaul.

However, in recent days, Obama has faced criticism from some quarters that he has not been forceful enough in supporting those protesting election results in Iran, and the topic dominated much of Tuesday's question-and-answer period with journalists.

The president also addressed the economy, post-election unrest in Iran and criticism from some quarters that he has not been forceful enough in supporting those protesting election results.

His appearance before the White House press corps kicked off a week of health care hard sell, including a televised White House town hall-style event set for Wednesday evening.

The press conference was initially scheduled to be held in the White House Rose Garden, which would have been the president's first in that traditional space. But, anticipating a hot midday in the nation's capital, it was moved inside.

The president's appearance comes at a time when his popularity with the American people remains at a healthy 65 percent, but his signature health care legislation has become mired in politics, price tags — and whether or not Americans should be offered the option of a federally administered public insurance plan.

The administration was knocked on its heels last week when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the government's cost for health care plans now under consideration in the Senate would top $1 trillion. Spooked Democratic leaders pulled back on the public plan, leaving that option in limbo.

Meanwhile, Republicans have brought to Washington one of their most popular figures, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, to help the party push back on the president's plan.

But this week, Obama is marshaling his forces — including first lady Michelle Obama, who was selling the health plan while on a trip Monday to California. He is also armed with encouraging poll numbers.

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 76 percent of those surveyed said it was "extremely" or "quite" important that people have a public insurance option. But only 33 percent of those surveyed said that the president's plan was a good idea, from what they knew of it. Thirty-two percent said it was a bad idea, and 30 percent had no opinion.

The administration and its surrogates see opportunity in those numbers. The Democratic National Committee, in concert with the White House, on Tuesday announced the launch of a Web site stocked with "genuine health care stories" that it says underscore the need for a comprehensive overhaul.

During Tuesday's press conference, the president was also questioned about the controversial climate change bill now being considered in the House, declining public confidence in his stimulus bill, and the tobacco regulation bill he — a sometimes smoker — signed Monday.

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