03/20/2015, 00.00
UNITED STATES - IRAN
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Barack Obama tells Iranians that an historic opportunity for a nuclear deal is within reach

US President addressed a message to the Iranian people on Nowruz, the Persian New Year, telling them that the opportunity to change the relationship between the two countries is within reach. The alternative would be Tehran's international isolation. The March deadline for negotiating a deal limiting Iran's nuclear activity is near.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) - US President Barack Obama has told the Iranian people that an historic opportunity to transform the relationship between the two countries is within reach.

"We have the best opportunity in decades to pursue a different future between our countries," he said in a video message for Persian New Year.

The 5+1 group (US, Russia, China, Britain and France, plus Germany) and Iran have been negotiating an agreement to limit Iran's nuclear activity for several years.

The deadline for a deal is the end of this month. If lost, such a "moment may not come again soon," the US leader said. Still, whilst conceding that "gaps" in negotiations persisted, he said he was hopeful.

"I believe that our nations have an historic opportunity to resolve this issue peacefully - an opportunity we should not miss."

If Iran's leaders agree to a reasonable deal, then the country would be on a path to prosperity, he added. Conversely, international isolation awaited them if an agreement was not reached.

For more than a year, since Hassan Rouhani became president, Tehran has accepted to the curb its uranium enrichment and improve controls by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In return, sanctions have been eased.

For Iran, the stakes are high because if it can return to peaceful economic relations with the world, it can open up to Western investment.

Such a change might remodel the Middle East and transform the lives of ordinary Iranians, battered by decades of embargo.

Iran has always claimed that its nuclear programme was civilian in nature and peaceful in intention. However, some members of the international community remain concerned that Tehran might still entertain plans to develop the means to weaponise it.

Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met for the fourth consecutive day in Switzerland. Their goal is to reach a deal by 31 March.

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