U.S. president says concerned over Middle East stability

Moscow warns West against interference in region’s affairs

Clashes erupt in Tehran as protests hit several countries

Bahrain monarch forms panel to probe death of two citizens

US President Barack Obama expressed concern about the stability in the Middle East as people across the region, emboldened by success in Tunisia and Egypt, are coming out on streets and demanding more from their governments.

Noting that every country of the region has different solution, Obama however cautioned the governments of the region not to use force against peaceful protestors.

"Ultimately, these are sovereign countries that are going to have to make their own decisions. What we can do is lend moral support to those who are seeking a better life for themselves," Obama said at a White House news conference.

"Obviously, we're concerned about stability throughout the region. Each country is different," he asserted.

"The message that we've sent even before the demonstrations in Egypt has been, to friend and foe alike, that the world is changing; that you have a young, vibrant generation in the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity, and that if you are governing these countries you've got to get out ahead of change, you can't be behind the curve," Obama said.

"The thing that will actually achieve stability in that region is if young people, if ordinary folks end up feeling that there are pathways for them to feed their families, get a decent job, get an education, aspire to a better life," he said.

"The more steps these governments are taking to provide these avenues for mobility and opportunity, the more stable these countries are," Obama said, adding that one can’t maintain power through coercion.

"At some level in any society, there has to be consent. That's particularly true in this new era where people can communicate not just through some centralized government or state-run TV, but they can get on a smart phone or a Twitter account and mobilize hundreds of thousands of people," he said.

"My belief is that, as a consequence of what's happening in Tunisia and Egypt, governments in that region are starting to understand this. And my hope is that they can operate in a way that is responsive to this hunger for change but always do so in a way that doesn't lead to violence," Obama said.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the West against "encouraging revolution" in the Middle East in the wake of popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Speaking during a visit to London, Lavrov said such calls could prove "counterproductive" and should be replaced by appeals for dialogue to "ensure stable evolution in the interest of the people of all countries."

"We have had one revolution in Russia and we don't believe that we need to call for others," the Russian foreign minister said at a joint news conference with William Hague, his British counterpart.

Attempts to encourage the spread of "democracy of a specific pattern" to other Middle Eastern states, such as Iran and Bahrain, could backfire on the West, Lavrov warned. He pointed to the Palestinian elections that resulted in victory in Gaza for the Islamist organization Hamas as an example.

"We need to understand the consequences of such encouragement," Lavrov said. "We don't think it is right to encourage specific schemes of action in terms of the Middle East states."

Hague, meanwhile, said Britain would defend the right to peaceful protest everywhere.

He condemned as "shameless hypocrisy" recent attempts by the authorities in Iran to suppress protests there, even though they had backed the demonstrations that led to the downfall of president Hosny Mubarak in Egypt.

"We uphold the right of peaceful protest. We did so in Egypt and Tunisia and we do so elsewhere. We look to the authorities in all the countries concerned to respect that right, including in Iran," he said.

Lavrov used the occasion to also criticize the United States and Europe for imposing further sanctions on Iran without the agreement of the so-called E3+3 group of Britain, France and Germany, plus the US, Russia and China.

"It undermines our joint work in the E3+3 group. If we agree to stick to a collective agreed position, we should not deviate from that," he said.

"Further sanctions would mean the creation of social problems for the population. We would not be able to support them," he added.

By contrast, Hague said that the international community needs to step up pressure on Tehran.

"I do think it will be important to intensify the peaceful and legitimate pressure on Iran to negotiate in good faith about its nuclear program," he said.

Hague confirmed that the two sides had discussed possible security cooperation on counter-terrorism and organized crime, even though no formal agreement had been reached.

"We don't have specific announcements to make because these issues do require further work by officials," he said.

The comments came after both men had stressed that progress was made in improving bilateral relations between Britain and Russia, even though differences remain.

Hague said Britain's Conservative-Liberal government is working for a "patient, steady improvement" in relations. "It will take time, there will be no giant leaps. It is about measured, practical steps," he noted.

Lavrov spoke of an "increased dynamism" in bilateral relations, but also stressed that "problems still exist." Russia is striving to achieve a "new quality" of constructive relations with Britain based on trust, he said.

He is the first senior Russian government official to come to Britain since the death from radiation poisoning of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in November 2006, which placed a severe strain on the bilateral ties.

Lavrov's visit, which followed a trip by Hague to Moscow last October, was seen as an attempt by both sides to repair relations and prepare for a visit to Russia by Prime Minister David Cameron later this year.

Meanwhile, Supporters and opponents of Iran's government clashed at a student's funeral in Tehran, both sides reported.

Services were held at Tehran University for Saane Zhaleh, one of two students killed at demonstrations, The New York Times said.

The Web site of the state broadcaster IRIB said Zhaleh was a pro-government Basij militant shot by protesters, but the opposition says he was beaten to death by plainclothes officers.

Also, opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi said he is willing to "pay any price" after lawmakers called for his execution. He posted the message posted on his Web site, sahamnews.org.

Parliament members chanted for the hanging of Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi for their roles in the protests.

Both opposition leaders already were under house arrest.

In an interview on state television, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the demonstrations against his regime are "going nowhere." "It is clear the Iranian nation has enemies because it is a nation that wants to shine, conquer peaks and change relations," he declared.

Fars news agency said Mohammad Mokhtaru was the second protester who died of his wounds.

The semi-official news agency said "according to police officials, seditionists had hatched a plot to get the police and security forces involved in armed clashes to allege that they had been treated violently."

A senior Iranian lawmaker accused Mousavi of contacting the CIA before demonstrations and accused him of being a spy.

In Libya, protesters took to the streets in the country's second largest city in what appears to be the first attempt by anti-government protesters to challenge Moammar Gadhafi's four decade rule.

In Manama, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has said that the deaths of two Bahraini protesters will be investigated as the country's officials attempt to ease tension in the island nation.

Speaking on state television, King Hamad said that officials would be asked to adopt the legislation necessary to end the political turmoil in the country, AFP reported.

“We will ask the legislative authority to look at this phenomenon and to suggest the necessary legislation which will solve this in a way that will benefit the homeland and its citizens,” he said.

Protesters who recently took to the streets in Bahrain initially demanded reform and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy.

“The kingdom of Bahrain is a country of law and constitutional institutions. We have a law that organizes peaceful demonstrations that was decreed by an elected committee. The right to express one's opinion is a right that is given by the constitution and has been organized by the law which we must all follow,” King Hamad stated.

The protesters called for a “Day of Rage” to mark the 10th anniversary of the National Action Charter, which ushered in a new Bahraini constitution.

Amnesty International has recently issued a report about Bahrain's human rights problems.

Last August and September, it said the authorities had detained 23 opposition activists and held them “incommunicado for two weeks during which, some allege, they were tortured.”

The US Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in the kingdom of Bahrain.