Obama reaches out to Iran
with video message

 

 

Philip Elliott

 

Associated Press

March 20, 2009

 

 

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama is reaching out to the Iranian people in a new video with Farsi subtitles, saying the U.S. is prepared to end years of strained relations if Tehran tones down its bellicose rhetoric.

 

The video released Friday was timed to the festival of Nowruz (no-ROOZ), which means "new day" and marks the arrival of spring. It's a major holiday in Iran.

 

For the release on THE BRIEFING ROOM - the White House blog, click here.

 

For the full English text of President Obama's March 19 videotaped message to Iranians, click here.

 

"So in this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to Iran's leaders," Obama said in the video. "We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community."

 

Obama has signaled a willingness to speak directly with Iran about its nuclear program and hostility toward Israel, a key U.S. ally. At his inauguration, the president said his administration would reach out to rival states, declaring "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

 

It's been a rough start for Obama.

 

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has criticized Obama as merely a continuation of President George W. Bush's policies toward Tehran's enemy, Israel. Khamenei has called Israel a "cancerous tumor" that is on the verge of collapse and has called for its destruction.

 

In his message Friday, Obama had a warning for Tehran: "This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect."

 

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Iran would welcome talks with the U.S. but only if there was mutual respect. Iranian officials have said that means the U.S. needs to stop accusing Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism, charges Tehran has denied.

 

On Friday, Tehran sought to play down the significance of Obama's video.

Ahmadinejad's press adviser said that "minor changes will not end the differences."

 

Ali Akbar Javanfekr told the Iranian state-run English-language Press TV satellite station that Iran will never forget U.S. meddling in Tehran's affairs. The two countries broke off relations after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

 

Obama and his foreign policy team are looking for opportunities to engage Iran and help reduce tensions between the two countries, which increased during Bush's time in office.

 

"You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations," Obama said. "You have that right, but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization."

 

The White House said the United States still has serious differences with Iran, particularly on the threat a nuclear-armed Tehran poses to the region. But aides said the president's message was a way to speak directly to Iranians about the U.S. commitment to work with the country.

 

The video also was as much an attempt to reach out directly to the Iranian people as it was a gesture toward the country's leadership. While Obama has advocated direct diplomacy with Tehran, he also has said there are multiple elements within Iran with whom the United States could have a dialogue.

 

The White House said a Farsi subtitled version of the video would be given to select news outlets in the region. At the same time, the video would be available online in English and with Farsi captions.

 

The holiday Nowruz is not Islamic; Iranians of all religions celebrate the 12-day event. Traditionally, the U.S. president and secretary of state release statements for Nowruz.

 

"For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained," Obama said in his video message. "But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together."

 

On the Net:

Obama video: http://www.whitehouse.gov/Nowruz

 

 

 

 

 

Release From the White House Blog

 

THE BRIEFING ROOM - THE BLOG

 

Thursday, March 19th, 2009 at 11:55 pm


A New Year, A New Beginning

President Obama released a special video message for all those celebrating Nowruz. Translated "New Day," Nowruz marks the arrival of spring and the beginning of the New Year for millions in Iran and other communities around the world.  This year, the President wanted to send a special message to the people and government of Iran on Nowruz, acknowledging the strain in our relations over the last few decades. "But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together," he says.

After committing his administration to a future of honest and respectful diplomacy, he continues on to address Iran's leaders directly: "You, too, have a choice.  The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations.  You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization.  And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create."

 

 

Full English text of Obama's March 19, 2009 videotaped
message to Iranians in celebration of Nowruz


THE PRESIDENT:  Today I want to extend my very best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz around the world.

This holiday is both an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal, and I hope that you enjoy this special time of year with friends and family.

In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture.  Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place.

Here in the United States our own communities have been enhanced by the contributions of Iranian Americans.  We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.

For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained.  But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together.  Indeed, you will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays -- by gathering with friends and family, exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope.

Within these celebrations lies the promise of a new day, the promise of opportunity for our children, security for our families, progress for our communities, and peace between nations.  Those are shared hopes, those are common dreams.

So in this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to Iran's leaders.  We have serious differences that have grown over time.  My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community.  This process will not be advanced by threats.  We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.

You, too, have a choice.  The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations.  You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization.  And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.

So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek.  It's a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce.  It's a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace.

I know that this won't be reached easily.  There are those who insist that we be defined by our differences.  But let us remember the words that were written by the poet Saadi, so many years ago:  "The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence."

With the coming of a new season, we're reminded of this precious humanity that we all share.  And we can once again call upon this spirit as we seek the promise of a new beginning.

Thank you, and Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak.

END OF MESSAGE
 

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