Invoking art, history and "the common humanity that binds us," President Barack Obama offered a "new day" in America's relationship with Iran, using a videotaped message released on the Internet to make an unusual appeal directly to Iranians for a shift away from decades of confrontation.
Israeli President Shimon Peres also issued an audio statement appealing to "the noble Iranian people on behalf of the ancient Jewish people" but took a tougher tone in an interview to be aired to Iranians on Monday.
Both messages suggested that there was a place for Iran as an equal in the international community. Obama warned Iran's leaders that their country's access to what he called its "rightful place in the community of nations" would not be advanced by threats or by "terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions."
As they have in the past when confronted with conciliatory words from Washington, Iranian officials welcomed the overture but stressed that it needed to be followed up with concrete actions to address past grievances, like the downing of an Iranian airliner in 1988.
Al Akbar Javanfekr, a high-ranking adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, praised Obama's effort to reach out to Iranians but asked for practical steps by the United States to change its orientation toward Iran.
"This cannot only be done by us, we cannot simply forget what the U.S. did to our nation," he said. "They need to perceive what wrong orientation they had and make serious efforts to make up for it."
The message echoed sentiments in Obama's first televised interview from the White House in January, in which he hinted at a new openness toward Iran.
Issues that divide Iran and the United States include Iran's nuclear ambitions, its attitude toward Israel and what the United States considers Tehran's support for elements of the insurgency in Iraq.