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« Why the GOP Says It's Pelosi's Bill, Not Obama's | Blog Home Page | Remember Iraq? »

Obama And Merkel Talk Iran, Energy Bill

It's rare that a foreign leader would weigh in on legislation before Congress, but that's just what happened as German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered support for progress the United States is making on combating climate change.

Speaking to reporters in the East Room with President Obama after the two held private meetings, Merkel said the cap and trade provisions of the energy bill represent a "sea change" from the United States.

"That this really points to the fact that the United States is very serious on climate," she said. "The fact that with the United States we stand where we stand today is an enormous success, which I would not have thought possible a year ago," she later added, alluding to differences between the Obama and Bush administrations on this issue.

Obama looked ahead, saying if passed the legislation "indicates enormous progress from where we have been," but that there is more to be done globally to reduce greenhouse emissions.

"I'm the first one to acknowledge that the United States, over the last several years, has not been where we need to be," he said. "We're not going to get there all in one fell swoop, but I'm very proud of the progress that's being made, and I think that the energy bill that's being debated in the House is an example of that progress."

Asked about Iranian President Ahmadinejad's criticism for speaking out against violence aimed at pro-democracy demonstrators, Obama said he didn't take them seriously.

"Particularly given the fact that the United States has gone out of its way not to interfere with the election process," Obama said. He also said he would not seek an apology after the Iranian leader compared him to Bush. "I would suggest that Mr. Ahmadinejad think carefully about the obligations he owes to his own people," he added. "He might want to consider the families of those who've been beaten or shot or detained."

Explaining his own recent comment that there "were few differences" between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi, Obama said that at the time, he was referring to their positions with regard to nuclear power. Since then, he said, Moussavi has shown he has "captured the imagination or the spirit of forces within Iran that were interested in opening up."

"He has become a representative many of those people who are on the streets and who have displayed extraordinary bravery and extraordinary courage," he said. "I continue to believe that ultimately it's up to the Iranian people to make decisions about who their leaders are going to be."