The Trump administration is speaking out in support of Iranian citizens after protests challenging Iran's government erupted in major cities.

The protests were sparked this week by anger over economic issues — prices of basic goods like eggs and poultry have surged. Thousands have since taken to the streets of several cities in Iran, and demonstrators have criticized Iran's government during the protests.

Early Saturday, President Trump took to Twitter to slam what he described as the regime's "corruption & its squandering of the nation's wealth to fund terrorism abroad." He also said the Iranian government should respect the rights of citizens, including the right to express themselves.

"The world is watching!" he added.

The president's statement was almost identical to one by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier.

"There are many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime's corruption and its squandering of the nation's wealth to fund terrorism abroad," Sanders said in a statement. "The Iranian government should respect their people's rights, including their right to express themselves. The world is watching."

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. "strongly condemns" the arrest of peaceful protestors, and "urges all nations to publicly support (the) Iranian people." 

She also pointed out that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has told Congress he supports elements in Iran that would bring about a peaceful transition of government. 

Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli urged people "not to participate in these illegal gatherings as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens," BBC News reported. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, said, "Iranian people give no credit to the deceitful and opportunist remarks of U.S. officials or Mr. Trump," a state television report said Saturday, The Associated Press reported.

The AP reports the protests appear to be the largest to hit the Islamic Republic since its 2009 Green Movement arose.