Updated at: 1050 PST, Friday, March 20, 2009
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama issued an unprecedented videotaped appeal to Iran on Friday offering a "new beginning" of diplomatic engagement to turn the page on decades of U.S. policy toward America's longtime foe. "My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties," Obama said in a message released to select Middle East broadcast outlets timed for an Iranian holiday celebration. Reaching out directly to Iranian leaders and their people, Obama said: "This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect." He said the United States wanted Iran to take its "rightful place in the community of nations," but also insisted that Tehran do its part to achieve reconciliation. "You have that right but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization," Obama said. "The measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create," he added, alluding to Iran's contested nuclear program and its missile development efforts.