Obama hits out Iran in Nevruz message

Obama hits out Iran in Nevruz message

Obama hits out Iran in Nevruz message

President Barack Obama speaks on Friday, March 16, 2012, at a fundraising lunch at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, IL, USA. ABACA press

U.S. President Obama accused Iran yesterday of imposing an “electronic curtain” to stop the free flow of ideas and information into the Islamic republic and promised a new U.S. push to ease the Iranian people’s access to the Internet, in a holiday message to the Iranian people.

In a statement to Iranians on Nevruz, the Persian New Year, he said that the two nations share a “common humanity” despite the ongoing tension, as he pressed for greater freedom for those living in Iran. “There is no reason for the United States and Iran to be divided from one another,” Obama said in the statement.

But the message offered fresh criticism of the Iran government on human rights issues. “The Iranian government jams satellite signals to shut down television and radio broadcasts,” Agence France-Presse quoted Obama as saying. “The regime monitors computers and cell phones for the sole purpose of protecting its own power. And in recent weeks, Internet restrictions have become so severe that Iranians cannot communicate freely with their loved ones within Iran, or beyond its borders.

Technologies that should empower citizens are being used to repress them.” Because of the actions, Obama said “an electronic curtain has fallen around Iran -- a barrier that stops the free flow of information and ideas into the country.”

“I want the Iranian people to know that America seeks a dialogue to hear your views and understand your aspirations,” he added. “That’s why we set up a Virtual Embassy, so you can see for yourselves what the U.S. is saying and doing. We’re using Farsi on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.” Even as Washington has imposed sanctions on the Iranian government, Obama said his administration “is issuing new guidelines to make it easier for American businesses to provide software and services into Iran that will make it easier for the Iranian people to use the Internet.”