US President Barack Obama accused Iran on Tuesday of imposing an "electronic curtain" to stop the free flow of ideas and information into the Islamic republic and promised a new US push to ease the Iranian people's access to the Internet.
"My 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," Obama said in a video message to the Iranian people marking the Iranian new year of Nowruz.
"For the people of Iran, this holiday comes at a time of continued tension between our two countries, but as people gather with their families, do good deeds and welcome a new season, we're also reminded of the common humanity we share," Obama said in the video message.
"There is no reason for the United Staes and Iran to be divided from each other. Here in the United sates Iranian-Americans prosper and contribute greatly to our culture," he added, citing the Academy Award recently taken home by an Iranian production and US Navy sailors rescuing Iranians taken hostage by pirates as examples of positive interaction between the two peoples.
Obama said that the regime in Tehran's crackdown on internet freedoms was increasingly cutting off Iranians from avenues of interaction with the outside world, and even with their loved ones within Iran.
"Technologies that should empower citizens are being used to repress them," the US president stated. "The world is being denied the benefit of interacting with the Iranian people," he added.
The US president said that America seeks a dialogue with the Iranian people, setting up a virtual embassy and posting in Farsi on Facebook to that end. "You can see for yourselves what the United States is saying and doing," he said in the video message.
"The United States will continue to draw attention to the electronic curtain that is cutting the Iranian people off from the world, and we hope that others will join us in advancing a basic freedom for the Iranian people - the freedom to connect with each other and with other human beings," Obama stated .
The US president said that the regime of the Islamic Republic has an obligation to allow its people the freedom to communicate, just as it has a responsibility to meet its obligations with regard to its nuclear program.
"If the Iranian government pursues a responsible path, it will be welcome once more among the community of nations and the Iranian people will have greater opportunities to prosper."