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US Embassies to Invite Iranian Diplomats to Celebrate Fourth of July

The Obama administration has authorized its embassies to invite Iranian diplomats to U.S. Independence Day celebrations on the Fourth of July.

Officials say the State Department sent a cable to all its embassies on Friday, telling them they "may invite representatives from the government of Iran" to their annual holiday parties.

The gatherings, hosted by U.S. embassies around the world on or around July 4, generally feature fireworks, red, white and blue decorations and typical American food such as hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as remarks about American history.

The cable was first reported by the New York Times on Tuesday, and then confirmed by the Associated Press. The State Department says the move is part of U.S. President Barack Obama's effort to reach out to Iran and improve relations between the two countries after decades of hostility.

It is not yet known how many embassies will invite Iranian diplomats to their Independence Day celebrations, and whether any Iranians will accept those invitations.

Iran and the United States cut all diplomatic ties after the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.

In March, President Obama recorded a videotaped message for the Nowruz holiday, saying he wants "a new beginning" in relations with Iran. He said he is committed to diplomacy to resolve "serious differences" between the two countries.

Iran's response to Mr. Obama's earlier overtures has been mixed.

In his most recent remarks on Iran, the U.S. president said he hopes to see progress by the end of the year, through "tough, direct diplomacy." He was speaking about Iran's nuclear program in an interview with British television (BBC) broadcast Tuesday, as Mr. Obama left on a trip to the Middle East.

Some information for this report was provided by AP