- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2013

While he and President Obama were expressing solidarity with Israeli’s firm stance on Iran’s nuclear program this week, Secretary of State John F. Kerry quietly issued a statement saying the U.S. is “strongly committed to resolving” its differences with the Islamic Republic.

“Despite the difficult history of the last decades between the United States and Iran, there is an opportunity to work diplomatically to reduce tensions and address the mistrust between our two countries, to the mutual benefit of both of our people,” Mr. Kerry said.

The remarks came in a statement released Wednesday evening wishing “health and prosperity to the people of Iran” as they celebrate Nowruz, the Iranian-Persian new year. Regardless of who holds office in Washington, recent years have seen the State Department make a tradition of issuing a positive “Message to the Iranian People on Nowruz” each year.

Mr. Kerry’s message said “many Americans will join you in celebrating Nowruz” this year. In addition noting to the “outstanding contributions of Iranian-Americans and Iranian students” in the United States, the secretary of state said, “I am proud of the Iranian-Americans in my own family, and grateful for how they have enriched my life.”

The message alluded in vague terms to U.S.-Iran tensions, which have mounted during recent years over Iran’s nuclear program and the Obama administration’s attempts to establish and enforce a global embargo on crude oil from Iran with the goal of pressuring the Islamic Republic away from developing a nuclear weapon.

Iran claims that its nuclear program is peaceful.

Mr. Kerry’s message did mention international tensions, saying, “We sincerely hope Iran’s leaders choose to fulfill their obligations to not only the international community but also to their people so that Iran can begin to take its proper place in the community of nations, and the Iranian people can have access to the same opportunities and freedoms enjoyed by others around the world.”

“As President Obama has said, we are strongly committed to resolving the differences between Iran and the United States, and continuing to work toward a new day in our relationship,” he said.

Mr. Kerry added that “just last month, Americans and Iranians came together to demonstrate outstanding sportsmanship and camaraderie” — a reference to a group of American athletes who traveled to Tehran to compete in an amateur wrestling world championship.

After the competition, Rich Bender of USA Wrestling was quoted by Voice of America inviting Iranians to come to New York City in May for more wrestling. The head of the Iranian National Olympic Committee reportedly responded that he “would like to visit New York City.”

Mr. Kerry said that on Nowruz, U.S. leaders would “like to reaffirm our desire to continue building strong people-to-people ties to promote greater understanding, peace, and progress.”

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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