Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei welcomed the Persian New Year, predicting in a live televised speech on March 20 that it will be one of "production, support, and removal of barriers."
"There is good ground for a production leap," Khamenei said, adding that the government needs to get rid of legal obstacles to higher output and growth as the economy suffers under U.S. sanctions.
Khamenei also said the election in June, which will choose a successor to President Hassan Rohani, makes the new year "important and sensitive."
The election will likely bring to office "new managers who most probably will be energetic and strongly motivated,” he said.
The army fired gun salutes at Tehran’s Azadi Square to usher in Norouz -- the Persian New Year, marked at the spring equinox -- and the beginning of the year 1400. The holiday is celebrated in a dozen countries stretching from the Caucasus to Central Asia.
In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a Norouz message calling for peace, prosperity, and understanding.
"That is the message and the joy of Nowruz that we are honoring,” Biden said in the statement, using an alternative spelling for the holiday. “This year, perhaps more than ever, that message is badly needed."
Biden’s administration is exploring ways to restore the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with major world powers. The deal has nearly collapsed since 2018, when then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States and reimposed sanctions, sending the Islamic republic’s economy reeling.
Iran’s hard-liners say the U.S. sanctions are proof Rohani’s policy of reaching out to the country's enemies was a failure.
In his Norouz message, Rohani said he was hopeful the new year will see the end of the sanctions.
“We will defeat the sanctions...I am more hopeful than eight years ago,” Rohani said, referring to when he was elected for his first term.
He also said the past year was "the worst in 60 years in terms of oil revenues," but he promised improvements, saying the economy is bouncing back.
He also pledged that the new year will see “wide access” to COVID vaccines and the pandemic being brought under control.