WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump, who has sought to ban travellers from Iran and other Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, issued a holiday greeting on Wednesday to Iranians celebrating the New Year holiday known as Nowruz.
Trump, who has also criticized the nuclear deal between Iran and western powers negotiated during President Barack Obama's administration, did not refer to the travel ban in his statement.
"Nowruz means 'new day' in Persian. It is an occasion to celebrate new beginnings, a sentiment that is particularly meaningful for so many Iranians who have come to our country in recent decades to make a new start in a free land," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House.
Nowruz is Iran's most important national event and is celebrated with family gatherings, vacations and gift-giving.
"For many years, I have greatly enjoyed wonderful friendships with Iranian-Americans, one of the most successful immigrant groups in our country’s contemporary history," he said.
Trump has taken a hard line on immigration, both as a presidential candidate and since taking office. He tried twice with executive orders to prevent people from several Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the United States, and he has promised to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
The latest order sought a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump's administration has said it would appeal after a federal judge struck down parts of the ban on the day it was set to go into effect.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by James Dalgleish)