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Plot Was 'Directed By Individuals In The Iranian Government,' Obama Says

"What we know is that an individual of Iranian-American descent was involved in a plot to assassinate the ambassador to the United States from Saudi Arabia, and we also know that he had direct links, was paid by and directed by individuals in the Iranian government," President Obama just said.

Those are his most extensive comments so far about the alleged plot by two Iranians, one of them a man who has lived in Texas for 30 years and is now in custody, to hire members of a Mexican drug cartel to kill the top Saudi diplomat in Washington.

The president, who this hour is taking questions from reporters in a joint news conference with South Korea President Lee Myung-bak did not directly answer a follow-up question about whether he thinks Iran's supreme leader or other top officials there knew of the alleged plan. "I'm going to let [Attorney General Eric Holder] comment on the details," Obama said. But, he added, the evidence indicates that "there are individuals in the Iranian government who were aware of this plot."

Iran has rejected such allegations.

As for how the U.S. plans to respond, the president said "our first step is to make sure that we prosecute those individuals who have been named in the indictment," one of whom is thought to be in Iran. The "second thing," Obama said, is to "apply the toughest sanctions and continue to mobilize the international community to make sure that Iran is further and further isolated and pays a price for this kind of behavior."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.