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Iran celebrates Nowruz, or Persian New Year, with hopes for a revived economy
Friday, March 21st, 2014

Political and spiritual leaders on both sides of the nuclear debate expressed hope Friday that Nowruz — the Persian New Year — would bring prosperity to Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani said he remains committed to a nuclear deal with the West that would lift sanctions and improve the economy.

“The next year will be the year of economic growth ... as we will take serious steps to slow down inflation,” Rouhani said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed similar hopes, saying the “economy and culture” will be Iran’s focus this year.

“The essential issue of the economy is important for the country and the people,” said Khamenei.

Nowruz coincides with the spring equinox and marks the New Year, making it one of the most important dates on the Iranian calendar. It’s celebrated across continents and cultures, from Afghanistan and Albania to Iran, Turkey and India.

President Barack Obama used the occasion to encourage Iranians to pursue a peaceful nuclear deal.

In his annual video message, the president said the world needs assurances Iran’s disputed nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and not to produce weapons.

“I’m under no illusions. This will be difficult,” Obama said. “But I’m committed to diplomacy because I believe there is the basis for a practical solution.”

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Iranians shop for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, at a market in Tehran on 19 March 2014.

(ATTA KENARE - AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqi Kurds celebrate the Nowruz spring festival in the Kurdish town of Akra in Iraq's Mosul region, 500 kilometres north of Baghdad, on March 20, 2014. The Persian New Year is an ancient Zoroastrian tradition celebrated by Iranians and Kurds which coincides with the vernal (spring) equinox and is calculated by the lunar calendar.

(SAFIN HAMED - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Kurdish boy takes a selfie as he celebrates Nowruz, the Kurdish New Year, on March 21, 2014, in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir.

(GURCAN OZTURK - AFP/Getty Images)
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Kurdish women dance to celebrate Nowruz, the Kurdish New Year, on March 21, 2014 in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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Afghan men cheer as they lift a holy mace in front of the Sakhi shrine during Nowruz festivities which marks the Afghan New Year in Kabul on March 21, 2014. Nowruz, one of the biggest festivals of the war-scarred nation, marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar.

(ROBERTO SCHMIDT - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Kurdish couple looks at each other romantically in front of a Nowruz fire as they celebrate the Kurdish New Year on March 21, 2014, in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir.

(GURCAN OZTURK - AFP/Getty Images)
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Afghan boys take flight on swings at a fair set up in a field near the Sahki Shrine during Nowruz festivities which marks the Afghan New Year in Kabul on March 21, 2014.

(ROBERTO SCHMIDT - AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqi Kurds dressed in traditional clothing celebrate the Nowruz spring festival in the Kurdish town of Akra in Iraq's Mosul region, 500 kilometres north of Baghdad, on March 20, 2014.

(SAFIN HAMED - AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqi Kurds holding flames walk up a mountain bearing a large Kurdish flag in the Kurdish town of Akra in Iraq's Mosul region as they celebrate the Nowruz spring festival on March 20, 2014.

(SAFIN HAMED - AFP/Getty Images)
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Kurds carry flags and pictures of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan as they gather to celebrate Nowruz, the Kurdish New Year, on March 21, 2014 in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir. Nowruz, which means "new day" in Kurdish and marks the first day of spring, is also celebrated in countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Albania, Bahrain, Armenia, Georgia and others.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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An Afghan boy gets a mouthful from his cotton candy at a fair set up in a field near the Sahki Shrine during Nowruz festivities which marks the Afghan New Year in Kabul on March 21, 2014.

(ROBERTO SCHMIDT - AFP/Getty Images)
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Afghan boys watch adult men struggle to reach the holy mace to kiss it in front of the Sakhi shrine during Nowruz festivities which marks the Afghan New Year in Kabul on March 21, 2014.

(ROBERTO SCHMIDT - AFP/Getty Images)
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