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Obama Calls for 'New Beginning' in Message to Iran

U.S. President Barack Obama is offering Iran's leaders the promise of a new beginning in relations. But Mr. Obama says they must now choose between threats and engagement.

President Obama says relations between Iran and the United States have grown increasingly strained over the last three decades.

He says it is time to begin anew. 

"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," the president said. 

But he says the effort cannot be one sided, stressing Iran's leaders have a choice. 

"This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek, instead, engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect," he said. 

He spoke in a videotaped message marking Nowruz - the Persian New Year. He said with the new year comes 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," he said. 

His comments were most striking, perhaps, for their tone. Unlike his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who refused to deal with Iran's leaders and once referred to Iran as part of an axis of evil, Mr. Obama focused on the future.

"I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek. It is a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It is a future where the old divisions are overcome - where you, and all your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace," he said. 

President Obama has raised the prospect in the past of possible diplomatic engagement with Iran. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently had harsh words for Tehran, saying it is encouraging divisions in the Arab world, promoting terrorism, and seeking to intimidate others. She later said the Obama administration wants to engage in talks with Iran, but only if it is sure the discussions will be productive.

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