WASHINGTON, March 11 (UPI) -- First lady Michelle Obama hosted a Nowruz celebration to mark the Persian New Year -- traditionally celebrated in Iran and Afghanistan -- amid a firestorm over a Republican-signed letter to the Iranian government.
The Silk Road Dance Company performed Wednesday in the East Room of the White House in celebration of the more than 3,000-year-old holiday. The official start of the nearly two-week observance is March 21, coinciding with the Spring Equinox.
Wednesday's observance comes amid tension in United States regarding Iran's nuclear program. Earlier in the week, 47 Republican senators signed an open letter to Iran saying any deal over nuclear weapons could last only as long as the Obama administration.
The White House called the letter an attempt to undermine foreign policy and Obama's nuclear negotiations with the country and warned it may cripple Iran's willingness to strike a deal.