US President Barack Obama noted Wednesday's 30th anniversary of the takeover of the US Embassy in Teheran, while insisting he wants the United States and Iran to move beyond the "path of sustained suspicion, mistrust and confrontation" that followed the subsequent hostage crisis.
Islamic militants stormed the embassy in Teheran on November 4, 1979, and seized its occupants. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
The crisis "deeply affected the lives of courageous Americans who were unjustly held hostage, and we owe these Americans and their families our gratitude for their extraordinary service and sacrifice," Obama said in a statement issued late Tuesday.
"This event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust, and confrontation," Obama said. "I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. ... We have made clear that if Iran lives up to the obligations that every nation has, it will have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community."
The Iranian government is backing events Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of the takeover, including an annual anti-American rally outside the brick walls of the former embassy compound.
"Iran must choose," Obama said. "We have heard for 30 years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for. ... It is time for the Iranian government to decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity and justice for its people.
On Tuesday, the head of Teheran's anti-riot police threatened opposition protesters with a full-scale assault if they should return to the streets during the state-sanctioned celebration. Reformist leaders have shown no sign of backing off their calls for marches Wednesday.
"The American people have great respect for the people of Iran and their rich history," Obama said. "The world continues to bear witness to their powerful calls for justice, and their courageous pursuit of universal rights."