WASHINGTON, March 18 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday challenged the Iranian leaders to take "immediate and meaningful steps" now to reduce tensions over its controversial nuclear program, one day prior to his departure for a visit to the Middle East.
In a statement issued to mark the Persian new year known as Nowruz, the president acknowledged that "serious and sustained effort" is needed to resolve the many differences between Iran and the United States.
"I have had no illusions about the difficulty of overcoming decades of mistrust," Obama said.
He stressed, however, that Washington and others are ready to reach a peaceful solution with Iran for the Islamic republic to clear doubts about the nature of its nuclear program and have access to peaceful nuclear energy.
"Now is the time for the Iranian government to take immediate and meaningful steps to reduce tensions and work toward an enduring, long-term settlement of the nuclear issue," the president declared.
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