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World Leaders Weigh Options Over Alleged Iranian Plot Inside U.S.

October 13, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: President Obama pressed the U.S. case today that Iran was behind a plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. And he warned, there are going to be consequences.

The president addressed the alleged plot and Iran’s role for the first time since the news broke Tuesday. He spoke at a press conference with the president of South Korea, and insisted the facts are there for all to see.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We would not be bringing forward a case unless we knew exactly how to support all the allegations that are contained in the indictment.

JEFFREY BROWN: Two men have been charged with conspiring to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir at a Washington, D.C., restaurant. One suspect, Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American from Texas, is already under arrest in New York. The other man, Gholam Shakuri, has been linked to the Quds Force, Iran’s special operations unit. He remains at large.

The president said there’s no question that people in the Iranian government were involved.

BARACK OBAMA: Even if at the highest levels there was not detailed operational knowledge, there has to be accountability with respect to anybody in the Iranian government engaging in this kind of activity.

The important thing is for Iran to answer the international community, why anybody in their government is engaging in these kinds of activities.

JEFFREY BROWN: Iran has issued a series of denials, including this one yesterday from the Foreign Ministry.

RAMIN MEHMANPARAST, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman (through translator): Such scenarios prove the political fluster and desperation of the United States. We consider such behaviors as symptoms of disintegration of America’s empire, which once claimed it can conduct its autocracy in the world. Of course we will give them a strong response and will, from the legal point of view, file a complaint against them.

JEFFREY BROWN: But President Obama today brushed aside those protests.

BARACK OBAMA: This is part of a pattern of dangerous and reckless behavior by the Iranian government. It’s got to stop and there are going to be consequences to its actions.

Now, we don’t take any options off the table in terms of how we operate with Iran, but what you can expect is that we will continue to apply the sorts of pressure that will have a direct impact on the Iranian government until it makes a better choice in terms of how it is going to interact with the rest of the international community.

JEFFREY BROWN: A short time later, the State Department spokeswoman confirmed, U.S. officials have had direct contact with Iran about the incident, but gave no details. The countries have no formal diplomatic ties.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, issued his own warning to Iran.

PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL, Saudi foreign minister: We will not bow to such pressures. We hold them accountable for any action they take against us. And any action they take against us will have a measured response.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, in London, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain is in close consultation with the U.S., the Saudis and the rest of the European Union on an international response.

Back in Washington, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman told a Senate hearing that the investigation is ongoing.

WENDY SHERMAN, U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs: In contrast with the Iranian regime’s rapid and unsurprising denials, we are meticulously and rationally laying out the facts of this plot.

JEFFREY BROWN: Sherman said U.S. ambassadors are alerting governments around the world about those details, and demanding an end to any Quds Force activities inside their countries.