Choose future, Obama tells Iran

November 4, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Nov 4 – Iran "must choose" whether to open the door to opportunity and prosperity, President Barack Obama said on  Wednesday in a statement marking 30 years since the storming of the US embassy in Tehran.

"We have heard for thirty years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for," Obama said.

"It is time for the Iranian government to decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity and justice for its people."

Radical Islamist students captured the city-centre US embassy on November 4, 1979 – just months after the Islamic revolution toppled the US-backed shah.

The students, who took 52 American diplomats hostage and held them for 444 days, said they were responding to Washington’s refusal to hand over the deposed shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Obama paid tribute to the hostages and their families for "their extraordinary service and sacrifice."

"This event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust and confrontation," he said.

"I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect."

The president stressed that Washington has "recognized Iran’s international right to peaceful nuclear power. We have demonstrated our willingness to take confidence-building steps along with others in the international community.

"We have accepted a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet Iran’s request for assistance in meeting the medical needs of its people," he added.

"We have made clear that if Iran lives up to the obligations that every nation has, it will have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community."

Iranian security forces were bracing for a traditional anti-American demonstration on the streets of Tehran marking the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the embassy.

The two countries broke diplomatic ties after the event, which is traditionally marked in Tehran when thousands, mostly students, gather outside the former embassy building, dubbed the "Den of Spies," to chant the slogans "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!"

The anniversary comes at a time when Washington is backing a sensitive nuclear fuel deal for Tehran brokered by the UN atomic watchdog.

On Tuesday, Obama and European Union leaders issued a joint call on Iran to meet its international obligations.


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