US President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States will place "further costs" on Iran in response to the violent crackdown against "peaceful protesters" in the country.
"This week, the United States will be imposing further costs on perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters. We will continue holding Iranian officials accountable and supporting the rights of Iranians to protest freely," Biden said in a statement quoted by AFP.
The President added that he is "gravely concerned about reports of the intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Iran, including students and women, who are demanding their equal rights and basic human dignity."
"The United States stands with Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery," he stated.
The protests in Iran were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last month, after her arrest by the morality police for allegedly breaching rules requiring women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes.
The protests have now entered their third week, with dozens having been killed so far in the crackdown by Iranian security forces.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre earlier on Monday said the student protesters "are rightly engaged with the Iranian government's treatment of women and girls and the ongoing violent crackdown on peaceful protests."
"This weekend's crackdowns are precisely the sort of behavior that drives Iran, talented young people to leave the country, by the thousands, to seek the dignity and opportunity elsewhere," she added.
"We're alarmed and appalled by reports of security authorities, responding to university students' peaceful protests with violence and mass arrests."
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed on Monday that protests inside the country were the work of Israel and the United States.
Describing Amini’s death a “sad accident,” he alleged that the protests were not organized by outraged Iranians but by agents of Israel and the US.
"This rioting was planned," he said. "These riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees."
Khamenei added that protesters deserved to be imprisoned, claiming that participants in demonstrations were out to “sabotage” the country and should face harsh punishment.