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The president denounced what he called an "electronic curtain" of Internet restriction in Iran and called on the Iranian people to access an American "virtual embassy."
President Barack Obama on Tuesday delivered a Nowruz message to the Iranian people in the form of an online video message. In the YouTube clip, Obama drew a connection between the celebrations of people in Iran and Iranian-Americans, while noting continued friction between Tehran and Washington.
"This holiday comes at a time of continued tensions between our two countries," the President said, before continuing "there's no reason for the United States and Iran to be divided from one another."
He highlighted the contributions of Iranians in America, including the Oscar-winning Farsi film "A Separation," and an Iranian-US crackdown on Strait of Hormuz pirates.
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Obama decried what he called the "electronic curtain," a system of digital roadblocks that robbed Iranians of the "universal right" to communicate with the outside world and with each other. "The regime monitors computers and cell phones for the sole purpose of protecting its own power," he said. "The Iranian people are denied the basic freedom to access the information that they want."
Even as the America and the European Union enact increasingly harsh sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, Obama announced in his message a new set of Treasury Department guidelines that would allow "U.S. companies to export software and other materials to Iran that support Internet messaging services like Skype and Yahoo Messenger, Internet browsers and other online communications capabilities," the Associated Press wrote.
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He also noted that the US had set up a "virtual embassy" of Persian-language information on the internet, and vowed to "continue to draw attention" to the "electronic curtain."
Drawing an allusion to the Arab Spring, Obama said "over the last year we have learned once more that suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away."
The video of Obama's message can be seen below.