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Obama Urges Iran Nuclear Deal Support

  • VOA News

In a greeting to Iranians marking the Persian new year, U.S. President Barack Obama told them this year represents the "best opportunity in decades" to pursue a different relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic.

Iranians are celebrating Nowruz as a March 31 deadline approaches for reaching a framework agreement to limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions against Tehran.

"This moment may not come again soon. I believe that our nations have an historic opportunity to resolve this issue peacefully, an opportunity we should not miss," Obama said in video remarks released Thursday.

The president said Iran's leaders should choose a "reasonable" nuclear deal, which he said would end Iran's international isolation and provide "greater opportunities for the Iranian people."

WATCH: President Barack Obama's Nowruz message to Iranian people

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If a deal is not reached, the president said Iran will continue "on the path it’s on today, a path that has isolated Iran, and the Iranian people, from so much of the world, caused so much hardship for Iranian families, and deprived so many young Iranians of the jobs and opportunities they deserve."

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Friday via Twitter that "Iranians have already made their choice: Engage with dignity. It's high time for the U.S. and its allies to choose: pressure or agreement."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday for what is supposed to be the final day of the current round of talks in Lausanne, Switzerland.

American and European officials have said a breakthrough is not likely, adding the talks may be extended.

U.S. officials are also downplaying a report suggesting Washington and Tehran are drafting elements of a nuclear deal that commits Iran to a 40 percent cut in the number of machines it could use to make an atomic bomb.

The Associated Press report, which quoted unnamed officials, said that in return Iran would get quick relief from some crippling economic sanctions and a partial lifting of a U.N. embargo on conventional arms.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Thursday dismissed such reports as "inaccurate" and insisted no draft document is circulating. "The fundamental framework issues are still under comprehensive discussion," she said, "and obviously that is what the secretary [Kerry] is focused on now."

During Friday's message, Obama also invoked the "familial spirit" of the Persian new year, calling for Iran to free three imprisoned Americans and to help find a fourth who went missing there eight years ago.

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