Obama wishes Iran non-nuclear new year

President Obama on Thursday told the Iranian people that a nuclear deal could “help open up new possibilities and prosperity” between Tehran and Washington in a video message marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

Obama said Iran’s leaders had an opportunity to start down a new path with the United States.

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“If Iran seizes this moment, this Nowruz could mark not just the beginning of a new year, but a new chapter in the history of Iran and its role in the world — including a better relationship with the United States and the American people, rooted in mutual interest and mutual respect,” he said.

Representatives from Iran, the U.S. and five other powers met at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, Austria, earlier this week.

The two sides are attempting to make progress on an interim deal struck last year by reaching agreements on the monitoring of Iran’s enrichment facilities. They also must reach a deal on what to do with Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium.

Negotiators hope to complete their talks before a six-month negotiating window, during which the U.S. and Europe loosened some economic sanctions, expires in July.

Obama said he was “under no illusions” and that the diplomatic path “will be difficult.”

“But I’m committed to diplomacy because I believe there is the basis for a practical solution,” Obama said.

On Capitol Hill earlier this week, 83 senators penned a letter urging Obama to insist that any final agreement states Iran “has no inherent right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

That could be a stumbling block in negotiations, because Iran has maintained it does have the right to enrich uranium for power plants.

Some lawmakers have also complained that the sanctions relief provided by the administration is too generous. 

The White House has so far been able to convince lawmakers not to pass a new round of sanctions that would go into effect if the talks fail. Obama has cautioned that doing so could endanger the fragile negotiations.