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Obama to Iranians: 'We have the opportunity to start down a new path'

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Thu March 20, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama says he's "committed to diplomacy" with Iran
  • He says a comprehensive deal will open up opportunities, prosperity for Iran
  • Iran has been isolated internationally over its nuclear program
  • An interim deal was reached last fall; talks are under way for a bigger agreement

(CNN) -- In a message to the Iranian people, an upbeat President Barack Obama said Thursday that the long isolated Middle East nation can soon improve its economy, its world standing and its people's lives if there's a breakthrough nuclear deal.

"For the first time in many years, we have the opportunity to start down a new path," Obama said in a message timed for Nowruz, the Persian new year.

A lot has changed since the last Nowruz.

For one, Iranians elected Hassan Rouhani -- who campaigned, in part, on opening up Iran more to the world including negotiations on its nuclear program -- as president last summer.

Iran FM: Mixed response to Obama speech
Inside Iran: What life's really like

Significant changes in Tehran's approach followed, leading to an interim agreement in November involving Iran and the so-called P5+1 -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany. The deal called for Iran to roll back parts of its nuclear program in return for relief from some sanctions. That agreement went into effect in January.

The challenge now is to reach a permanent deal acceptable to all sides.

Obama said Thursday that "a comprehensive agreement ... this year can help open up new possibilities and prosperity for the Iranian people for years to come." That includes more open trade, more jobs and "more opportunities for Iranian students," according to the President.

Noting the progress that has been made, Obama stressed that "this will be difficult." At the same time, he insisted the United States is ready to talk.

"I'm committed to diplomacy," the President said, "because I believe there is the basis for a practical solution."

READ: P5+1 and Iran agree on nuclear negotiation framework in Vienna

READ: Iran nuclear deal commitments kept so far, U.S. official says

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