Even as negotiations on the accord continued, the Obama administration issued an order Thursday allowing U.S. academic institutions to operate exchange programs with Iranian universities.
The announcement followed Obama's comments in an annual videotaped message to Iranians marking the Persian new year, Nowruz. This year's message coincides with nuclear negotiations between the U.S., Iran and five other world powers.
Obama says reaching a final nuclear agreement "will be difficult." But he says he's committed to diplomacy because he believes there is a basis for a "practical solution" to the nuclear dispute.
The president says Iran would retain access to "peaceful nuclear energy" under a final agreement. He says a deal would also mean more economic growth and jobs for Iranians.
Secretary of State John Kerry, in his own Nowruz message, said he hopes the people of Iran will be able to "fulfill their aspirations" in the coming year. He welcomed in particular the prospect of more educational exchanges between the U.S. and Iran, saying it would "reaffirm our belief that strengthening cultural and academic ties between our two countries benefits our two peoples."