/ March 22, 2020
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
U.S. President Donald Trump has used an annual message to Iranians and others celebrating Norouz, the Persian New Year, to call for a "brighter, freer future" for Iran.
"On behalf of the United States, I extend my warmest greetings for a joyous and peace-filled Norouz," which marks the first day of spring, Trump said in his message on March 20.
"Today, we are reminded once more that the forces of freedom and liberty will always triumph over evil and oppression," he added.
The U.S. president did not mention the coronavirus pandemic that has infected 19,644 people and killed 1,433 in Iran as of March 20 -- making it one of the worst-affected countries in the world.
Trump said that the past year had been “historic" for the people of Iran, citing "brave and courageous Iranians" who stood up "in massive numbers across the entire country to protest their government's corruption and demand accountability."
The U.S. president added that Iranians "have made it clear that they want leadership that represents them, not the interests of its corrupt regime."
Angry Iranians have taken to the streets to protest in recent months, including anti-establishment demonstrations in November that were sparked by the government's sudden announcement of gasoline rationing and price hikes.
The protests erupted in more than 100 Iranian cities and towns and turned violent before security forces violently put them down.
More recently, the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane by Iran's air defenses in January led to days of protests in Iranian cities, with demonstrators chanting slogans against Iran's clerical leadership.
In his message, Trump said the Iranian people "deserve leaders who listen to, respect, and invest in them, not leaders who target and persecute them while wasting money to advance their nuclear ambitions and test more missiles."
"They deserve a future of peace and prosperity at home and with all other nations. As they begin this season of renewed hope, we join our partners and allies around the world in praying for a brighter, freer future for Iran," he added.
In 2018, Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran signed with six world powers, and began reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran.
Iran has since breached its main limitations, exceeding the stockpiles of heavy water and uranium allowed, the number and types of centrifuges it can operate to enrich uranium, and the purity of uranium.
In a message carried by Iranian state TV, President Hassan Rohani urged Americans to call on their government to lift sanctions on Tehran as the country struggles to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
"U.S. government sanctions have led to many ordinary Iranians losing their health, jobs, and income," Rohani said.
"Now is the time for the American people to shout loudly at the U.S. government to demand an answer...and not allow the U.S. history to be blackened further," he said.
Trump wants Tehran to negotiate a new accord that would place indefinite curbs on its nuclear program and restrict Tehran's ballistic-missile program.
Tehran refuses, insisting that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only.
Free Press International