WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Thursday that the U.S. will make sure that Iranian officials are held accountable for "reckless behavior" in what he said was their direct role in an alleged assassination plot against the Saudi Arabian ambassador in the United States.
Obama said the U.S. will be able to support all of its allegations of Iranian involvement. "Those facts are there for all to see," he told a joint White House news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. The State Department said the United States has had "direct contact" with the Iranian government about the incident.
Two men, including a member of Iran's Quds Force special foreign actions unit, were charged in New York federal court on Wednesday with conspiring to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Abel Al-Jubeir, at a Washington restaurant. People in the Iranian government "were aware of this plot," Obama said. "There has to be accountability."
He said that one of the suspects was an individual of Iranian-American descent and had "direct links, was paid by, and was directed by individuals in the Iranian government."
Obama said the scheme follows "a pattern of reckless behavior by the Iranian government."
"Our first step is to make sure that we prosecute those individuals who have been named in the indictment," Obama said.
He said evidence of Iranian government complicity has already been shared with key U.S. allies. "There will not be a dispute" over Iran's role, Obama said. Iran has denied any involvement any such alleged plot.
U.S. officials believe Iran hoped that such an attack would be blamed on al-Qaida. That, in turn, would strike at two of Iran's chief enemies: the United States and Saudi Arabia.
" There's a great similarity between how Iran operates and how North Korea operates, a willingness on their part to break international rules, to flout international norms, to not live up to their own commitments. And each time they do that, the United States will join with its partners and allies in making sure that they pay a price," Obama said.
"We don't take any options off the table in terms of how we operate with Iran," Obama said. But he said "what you can expect" is continued U.S. pressure on Tehran "until it makes a better choice in terms of how it's going to interact with the rest of the international community."
"I have to emphasize that this plot was not simply directed at the United States of America. This is a plot that was directed against the Saudi ambassador," the president added.
For his part, Lee said he was "deeply shocked" by the alleged assassination plot.
"I and the Korean people strongly condemn all forms of terrorism," the South Korean leader said. "Our two countries are working to bring peace and stability around the world."