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Obama Nowruz Message Calls For Lifting of Iran's 'Electronic Curtain'

U.S. President Barack Obama has used a message marking the Persian New Year, Nowruz, to call for the lifting of what he called the "electronic curtain" around Iran.

In Tuesday's video message, President Obama said the United States will continue to draw attention to the curtain, describing it as "a barrier that stops the free flow of information and ideas into the country" and cuts the Iranian people off from the world.

"Yet increasingly, the Iranian people are denied the basic freedom to access the information that they want," the president said. "Instead, the Iranian government jams satellite signals to shut down television and radio broadcasts.  It censors the Internet to control what the Iranian people can see and say.  The regime monitors computers and cell phones for the sole purpose of protecting its own power. And in recent weeks, Internet restrictions have become so severe that Iranians cannot communicate freely with their loved ones within Iran, or beyond its borders."

President Obama said his administration is issuing new guidelines to help American businesses provide software and services into Iran that will make it easier for Iranians to use the Internet.

Addressing the Iranian people directly, he said the U.S. seeks a dialogue to hear their views and understand their aspirations.

"The Iranian people are the heirs to a great and ancient civilization. Like people everywhere, they have the universal right to think and speak for themselves," Obama noted.  "The Iranian government has a responsibility to respect these rights, just as it has a responsibility to meet its obligations with regard to its nuclear program.  Let me say again that if the Iranian government pursues a responsible path, it will be welcomed once more among the community of nations, and the Iranian people will have greater opportunities to prosper."

Iranians have had a mixed reaction to President Obama's past Nowruz messages, with some questioning his sincerity.

This year, the holiday comes at a time of high tension between the two nations over Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. and other Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

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