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Iran Sees Positives In Obama's UN Speech

U.S. President Barack Obama's speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York was positively received by many Iranians.
There were plenty of postive reactions to U.S. President Barack Obama's address to the UN General Assembly in New York on September 24.

"With Hope, Peace Is On The Way."

"U.S. Respects Iran's Right To Nuclear Energy"

"Obama Says U.S. Does Not Want Regime Change."

These were just a few of the headlines Iranians woke up to the morning after Obama's much-anticipated speech.

Whereas Obama's speeches in the past were received with caution and mistrust in Iran, the reception this time around in the press and on the street was markedly upbeat.

"I hope the U.S. takes this opportunity, and we are also wise to make the most of this occasion," said one Tehran resident, who identified himself only as Atashghadr. "I hope we make the most of this."

Atashghadr's comment was indicative of the general reaction to Obama's admission that Washington had made "past mistakes" in dealing with Iran.

In his speech, Obama admitted the U.S. role in the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran's first democratically elected government.

President Obama also won plaudits for acknowledging that Iranians were victims of chemical weapons during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, becoming the first U.S. president ever to do so.

"I don't believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight," Obama said. "The suspicions run too deep. But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear program -- that can serve as a major step down a long road toward a different relationship -- one based on mutual interests and mutual respect."

Iran's "Donya-e-Eqtesad" daily applauded Obama's "shift in tone." The Tehran-based newspaper "Jomhouri Eslami" noted that Obama offered assurances that the United States does not "seek regime change in Iran."

The "Tehran Times," reporting on Obama saying Washington would allow Iran access to nuclear energy only for "peaceful" purposes, headlined the message that the U.S. respected Iran's right to pursue nuclear power.

Numerous newspapers also applauded Obama's recognition of a fatwa, or religious decree, made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that describes weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, as contrary to Islamic beliefs.

Not all in Iran were so flattering, however.

"Kayhan," a conservative daily newspaper in Tehran, mocked Obama for "boasting" about the United States. It said Obama's pledge to let Iran have access to nuclear energy was a "sign of Iran's rising power."

Speaking in Tehran on September 25, a man who identified himself only as Rabie echoed the view that Iran played no small role in the softer tone expressed at the UN.

"I think President [Hassan] Rohani has convinced other countries to engage in negotiations based on mutual respect," he said. "He made it clear that he seeks an ideal relationship with other countries."
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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan is acting editor for Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan in the Central Newsroom at RFE/RL. Previously, he was a correspondent and reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2011, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.