More than 50 current and former Iranian political prisoners have called on U.S. President Obama to seize the "last chance" for detente between Tehran and Washington.
The call came in a letter dated August 8 that says the election of new Iranian President Hassan Rohani has created an opportunity for Iran and the United States to start a new era of mutual understanding.
The letter calls on Obama to seize the opportunity and end sanctions and other measures that endanger the prospects of fruitful negotiations.
The signatories criticize the unprecedented, "crippling" sanctions imposed on Iran, whose main victims, they say, are the Iranian people.
The letter reads, "The sanctions have now turned into a collective punishment imposed on the Iranian people as a whole, not the government only."
The letter comes after the U.S. House of Representative passed last week a bill that will strengthen sanctions against Iran, if passed by the Senate in September.
The signatories, who include prominent figures such as former student leader Abdollah Momeni, warn that a continued policy of putting pressure on Iran will strengthen the belief in a significant part of the Iranian public that the United States is not genuinely interested in resolving the conflict between the two countries.
"Mr. President! We believe it is time to replace sanctions with an effort to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution on the nuclear issue," the letter reads.
Desire For 'Genuine Change'
It describes President Rohani as a politician "known to be a firm believer in dialogue and constructive engagement" and says that those who voted for him expressed their desire for "genuine change" in all aspects of politics, including foreign policy.
The letter urges the Obama administration and the new government of Iran to employ all possible means to build trust and ensure the success of diplomacy.
In his press conference after taking power, Rohani said Tehran was ready for "serious" negotiations with Washington to resolve the nuclear issue.
In response, the White House said Iran would find a "willing partner," "should it choose to engage substantively and seriously" on the issue of its sensitive nuclear activities.
The Unites States and its allies accuse Tehran of secretly developing the capacity to build nuclear weapons -- an allegation denied by Iran.
With reporting by Kalame.com and "The Guardian"