DUBAI/tehran - Iran’s Supreme Leader said on Saturday the United States would overthrow the Iranian government if it could, adding Washington had a “controlling and meddlesome” attitude towards the Islamic Republic, Iranian media reported.
In a speech to mark the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran, added that officials seeking to revive the economy should not rely on an eventual lifting of sanctions but rather on home-grown innovation. “American officials publicly say they do not seek regime change in Iran. That’s a lie. They wouldn’t hesitate a moment if they could do it,” he was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.
Khamenei made no mention of talks between Iran and world powers intended to settle a decade-old dispute about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.
But he reiterated that in dealing with “enemies”, Iran should be prepared to change tactics but not compromise on its main principles. Khamenei added: “The solution to our economic problems is not looking out and having the sanctions lifted ... My advice to our officials, as ever, is to rely on infinite indigenous potentials.” He added: “Our (hostile) stance toward the United States is due to its controlling and meddlesome attitude.” Khamenei’s comments about hostility reflect his long standing animosity towards the United States, seen as the arch-enemy by Iranian authorities.
The United States and Iran have had no official ties since 1980 after Iranian students occupied the US embassy in Tehran, taking 52 diplomats hostage in protest against Washington’s admission of the former Shah after he was toppled by the Islamic revolution.
But Khamenei has given his guarded support to the nuclear negotiations being led by the new reformist government of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful and that it is Israel’s assumed atomic arsenal that threatens peace. Western powers suspect that the programme is a cover for pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.
Meanwhile, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei renewed his confidence in President Hassan Rouhani Saturday, demanding tolerance from opponents who have criticised him over talks with world powers on Tehran's controversial nuclear programme.
Khamenei spoke after days of public spats between Rouhani's government and hardline opponents and as Tehran held what it called a "satisfactory" round of talks with visiting UN inspectors. The disputes have focused mostly on a deal struck with world powers in November that has put temporary curbs on Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for modest sanctions relief and the return of billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets.
Without touching directly on the nature of those disagreements, Khamenei said "critics must exercise tolerance when it comes to the government." "It has only been a few months since the government has taken the reign," Khamenei told commanders of Iran's air force in remarks reported by one of his websites, leader.ir. "The statesmen must be given time to push forward strongly with their plans," said the supreme leader, who has the final say on all key state affairs, including the nuclear dossier.
Since the deal, hardliners in Iran have not shied away from criticising the government and top nuclear negotiator and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. They argue that what Iran gained in the interim deal - meant to last six months and also buy time for diplomacy over a comprehensive accord - do not offset what it has compromised in its nuclear activities. But Rouhani insists that the deal is bringing down the sanctions regime and "chains strangling Iran's economy" - a main campaign promise of the self-proclaimed moderate, who took office in August.
Khamenei himself has also hailed the deal as a victory for Iran, but remains sceptical of interaction with longtime foe the United States, a member of the so-called P5+1 group of world powers negotiating with Tehran. Western powers and Israel suspect Iran's atomic work mask military objectives, despite repeated denials in Tehran. The negotiations between Tehran and world powers will resume on February 18 to ultimately allay those concerns and remove sanctions on Iran. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Iranian officials and inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency met for talks on allegations of past Iranian weapons work and on additional safeguards to allay international concerns over its nuclear ambitions. Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said a morning session went satisfactorily, but did not provide details.