In video message to Iran, Obama calls for fresh start
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On the eve of the Nowruz holiday in Iran, US President Barack Obama issued an unprecedented videotaped message to America's longtime diplomatic foe, offering Iran an “engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect”.
REUTERS - President Barack Obama issued an unprecedented videotaped appeal to Iran on Friday offering a "new beginning" of diplomatic engagement to turn the page on decades of U.S. policy toward America's longtime foe.
"My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties," Obama said in a message released to select broadcast outlets in the Middle East timed for the Nowruz holiday celebration in Iran.
Obama went further than he has since taking office on Jan. 20 in extending an olive branch to Tehran, which has been locked in disputes with Washington over Iran's nuclear ambitions and its support for militant Islamic groups.
The Obama administration -- in a major shift from former President George W. Bush's isolation policy toward Iran, which he once branded part of an "axis of evil" -- has expressed an openness to direct diplomatic contacts with Iran.
Reaching out to Tehran, Obama said: "This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect."
He said the United States wanted Iran to take its "rightful place in the community of nations" but insisted that Tehran would have to do its part to achieve reconciliation.
"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," Obama said.
"And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create," he added, alluding to Iran's contested nuclear program and its missile development efforts.
To stress the seriousness of Obama's overture, the White House distributed the videotape to broadcasters with Farsi subtitles and posted it on the White House website to coincide with Iranian observance of the ancient festival of Nowruz, celebrating the arrival of spring.