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Americans celebrate the
birthday of their country on July 4th with fireworks and parades, as well as
picnics and barbecues for friends and family. This year, U.S. embassies around
the world have the opportunity of inviting new guests to their celebrations:
Breaking with previous policy, the U.S. State Department has authorized
embassies to ask officials from the government of Iran to attend embassy Fourth
of July festivities. The U.S. severed formal diplomatic relations with Iran
after Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, and held U.S.
personnel hostage for over four hundred days.
The overture comes as the U.S. is seeking to engage the government of Iran
directly on a variety of issues, including its nuclear program. U.S. State
Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said inviting the Iranian diplomats to
Independence Day celebrations is part of the U.S. effort to have direct contact
"Our policy is to try to reach out
to the Iranian Government and people. The President [Barack Obama] and the
Secretary [of State Hillary Clinton] have made very clear that this is what we
want to do. And you know, certainly, there are going to be other opportunities
to reach out to Iran. We again still wait for Iran to reach back."
Mr. Wood said the U.S. is particularly interested in hearing a positive
response to the offer made to Iran for the U.S. to participate fully in the P5
plus one talks with Iran over its nuclear program. The P5 plus one refers to
the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Britain, China,
France, Russia, and the U.S. -- plus Germany.
The Independence Day invitation to Iranian diplomats, said Mr. Wood, is another
sign that the United States is moving in a new direction in regard to Iran.
"We want to engage the Iranian people, and through them, their
government," he said, "and this is just one way of doing so."