rex tillerson iran regime change labott intv sot_00012721.jpg
cnn
rex tillerson iran regime change labott intv sot_00012721.jpg
Now playing
03:02
Tillerson: Iran must listen to its people
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson makes a statement to the press at the State Department in Washington, DC, October 4, 2017.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied Wednesday he had considered resigning from Donald Trump's cabinet and dismissed a report that he had called the president a "moron" as "petty nonsense." "The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post," Tillerson said, denying an NBC News report.
 / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON        (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson makes a statement to the press at the State Department in Washington, DC, October 4, 2017. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied Wednesday he had considered resigning from Donald Trump's cabinet and dismissed a report that he had called the president a "moron" as "petty nonsense." "The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post," Tillerson said, denying an NBC News report. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:30
Did Tillerson just take a veiled shot at Trump?
US President Donald Trump speaks alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:34
Trump fires Tillerson, hints at more changes
TILLERSON: MY HOPE YOU WILL BE GUIDED BY VALUES -
CNN
TILLERSON: MY HOPE YOU WILL BE GUIDED BY VALUES -
Now playing
01:58
Tillerson: Washington a 'mean-spirited town'
pool
Now playing
01:44
Tillerson speaks after being fired
Tillerson statement 03132018
POOL
Tillerson statement 03132018
Now playing
00:37
Tillerson calls out 'troubling' Russia actions
cnn
Now playing
00:37
Rex Tillerson: I'll be here for all of 2018
tillerson trump tenure orig vstan me_00000423.jpg
tillerson trump tenure orig vstan me_00000423.jpg
Now playing
01:50
Trump and Tillerson's tense relationship
CNN
Now playing
00:29
Tillerson calls resignation rumors 'laughable'
US President Donald Trump speaks alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:56
Source: WH wanted to publicly shame Tillerson
Now playing
02:19
Tapper to Tillerson: Did you call Trump a moron?
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pauses during a briefing at the Department of State   on August 22, 2017 in Washington, DC.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged Tuesday that North Korea has shown a "level of restraint" in not conducting nuclear or missile tests since new UN sanctions were imposed. And he expressed the hope that it was a sign of Pyongyang's readiness to enter peace and disarmament talks with Washington "sometime in the near future."
 / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pauses during a briefing at the Department of State on August 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged Tuesday that North Korea has shown a "level of restraint" in not conducting nuclear or missile tests since new UN sanctions were imposed. And he expressed the hope that it was a sign of Pyongyang's readiness to enter peace and disarmament talks with Washington "sometime in the near future." / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:25
Tillerson under fire for turmoil at State Dept.
Now playing
01:30
Corker: Tillerson not getting support he needs
Now playing
00:20
Trump: Total confidence in Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson
CNN
Rex Tillerson
Now playing
02:18
Rex Tillerson addresses rumors on quitting
rex tillerson non answers origwx bw_00000000.jpg
rex tillerson non answers origwx bw_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:18
Rex Tillerson perfects the non-answer

Story highlights

Tillerson says the US would support a "peaceful transition of power"

The US is considering additional sanctions on Iran, Tillerson says

The secretary of state spoke to CNN in an exclusive interview

(CNN) —  

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Trump administration supports the aspirations of Iranian protesters, including calls for a “peaceful transition of government.”

“At some point, people will decide this is not how they want to live any longer,” Tillerson told CNN’s Elise Labott in an interview Friday, saying “the Iranians have suffered under this regime.”

“But we always support a peaceful transition of power,” he cautioned. “We do not support violent transitions of power, but we do support peaceful transitions of power, and we’ve seen those expressions in years past with the large demonstrations at elections in 2009, the demonstrations that we see in the streets today.”

Tillerson is the latest in a string of Trump administration officials to condemn the Iranian government since protests broke out across Iran last week. Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Wednesday that the US “has spoken clearly and unequivocally” in support of the protesters, while US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters Tuesday, “all freedom-loving people must stand with their cause.”

President Donald Trump has weighed in forcefully on Twitter, writing on Monday, “The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”

But these calls for a change in leadership, and a decision by the administration to call for a UN Security Council meeting Friday on the demonstrations, have irked US adversaries.

Russia’s mission to the UN, for example, raised the notion of the Security Council meeting about protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Russia’s deputy foreign minister has called the US proposal “harmful and destructive.”

The Trump administration has never been shy about criticizing the Iranian government for its interventions in foreign conflicts and continued missile development program. Trump also refused to certify Iran as compliant with the terms of a 2015 nuclear deal, putting the future of that international agreement in question.

On Friday, Tillerson reasserted the administration’s intent to “look at the totality of Iran’s actions and behaviors” and suggested that further non-nuclear sanctions were in the works unless “Iran alters its behavior.”

He suggested that demonstrators are motivated, in part, by frustration over the same aggressive behavior that angers the US, though Iran watchers have largely attributed the protests to growing economic concerns.

“We are supportive of the Iranian people achieving their aspirations for a better quality of life, for greater freedom,” Tillerson told CNN. “We believe they deserve that, but it will be up to the Iranian people to manage that peaceful transition. We support that.”