Washington briefing: Obama offers goodwill message to Iran

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday March 27, 2009

Washington - President Barack Obama stressed U.S. commitment to diplomacy and dialogue with the Iranian government in a March 20 video message dedicated to Nowruz, the Iranian new year.

"I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek," Mr. Obama said in the message. "It's a future with 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."

Mr. Obama's comments reflected a campaign pledge to reach out to Iran. But the message also referred to "terror" and "arms," reflecting longstanding U.S. charges that Iran supports terrorist groups and seeks to develop nuclear weapons.

A spokesperson for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed "the wish of the president of the United States to put away past differences." But in an interview with Reuters, the spokesperson, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, put the blame for tensions on the U.S. "The only source of instability in the region is the American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan," he claimed.

In what is seen as a step toward U.S.-Iranian dialogue, Iranian officials said this week they would attend a United Nations conference on Afghanistan to be held in The Hague on March 31. The conference was proposed by the United States earlier this month, as the Obama administration has made stabilization of Afghanistan its immediate foreign policy priority.

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