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Obama slams Iran's 'electric curtain' amid 'Israel loves Iran' internet campaign

President Barack Obama accused Iran on Tuesday of imposing an "electronic curtain" on its citizens and promised new U.S. steps aimed at helping to ease the Iranian people's access to the Internet, as a social media campaign designed to promote peace between ordinary Israelis and Iranians got underway.

Speaking directly to ordinary Iranians in a video message marking Nowruz, the Persian new year celebration, Obama acknowledged "continued tensions between our two countries," which stem mostly from Iran's defiance over its nuclear program.

But he insisted that Americans want a dialogue with Iranians. "There is no reason for the United States and Iran to be divided from one another," he said.

Obama's overture to the Iranian people was the latest step in Washington's push to ratchet up pressure on Tehran. He has urged Israel to hold off on any attack on Iran's nuclear sites to allow more time for sanctions and diplomacy to work.

Renewing accusations of Iran's suppression of its people, Obama said Iranians were "denied the basic freedom to access the information that they want." He cited blocking of television and radio signals, monitoring of computers and cell phones and censoring of the Internet.

"Because of the actions of the Iranian regime, an electronic curtain has fallen around Iran," Obama said in the video address, which was transmitted in Farsi as well as English.

"Today, my administration is issuing new guidelines to make it easier for American businesses to provide software and services into Iran that will make it easier for the Iranian people to use the Internet," he said.

'Israel loves Iran'
Coincidentally, two Israelis, Ronny Edri and Michal Tamir, launched an internet-based project on Saturday seeking to reach out to ordinary people in Iran and express a desire for peace.

They developed colorful slogans, such as “Israel Loves Iran” and “We will never bomb you,” and urged people to add them to online photographs to reach out to ordinary Iranians.

In the “about you” section of their website, Edri wrote that for there to be war “first we must be afraid of each other, we must hate.”

“I’m not afraid of you, I don’t hate you. I don t even know you. No Iranian ever did me no harm. I never even met an Iranian…Just one in Paris in a museum. Nice dude,” Edri said, addressing Iranians. “I see sometime here, on the TV, an Iranian. He is talking about war. I’m sure he does not represent all the people of Iran. If you see someone on your TV talking about bombing you …be sure he does not represent all of us.”

“I’m not an official representative of my country. I m a father and a teacher. I know the streets of my town, I talk with my neighbors, my family, my students, my friends and in the name of all these people …we love you. We mean you no harm,” Edri added. “On the contrary, we want to meet, have some coffee and talk about sports.”

Some responded sarcastically, with one person using an image of the Greek’s Trojan horse in Troy, apparently taken from a film, with the message “Trojans, We will never bomb your country, We love you.”

 

However, there appeared to be a positive response from others, including Iranians.

On the “Love and Peace Campaign” Facebook page, which says it is run by a group of “independent Israeli-Iranian social activists and has more than 4,000 followers, a number of pictures were posted with slogans like “We love you Israeli people,” and “My Israeli friends, I don’t hate you, I don’t want War, love peace.” A heart symbol was used by some to represent the word love.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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