BEIRUT: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the United States on Saturday of using economic pressure and “bullying” to try to turn Iranians against Islamic rule, underscoring his long-held mistrust of Tehran’s main negotiating partner in nuclear talks.
Amid shouts of ‘Death to America’, Khamenei, who has the last word on all matters of state, added in a speech that Tehran was negotiating with major powers solely on the nuclear dispute and not about regional matters, an apparent reference to conflicts and instability in Iraq, Syria and the Gulf.
His speech, which repeatedly hit out at Western sanctions, attacked “arrogant powers” — a reference to major Western countries — for what he said was their role in bringing about a fall in the oil price by more than half in recent months.
Speaking in the north eastern city of Mashhad, he said “enemies” sought to turn Iranians against the Islamic Republic, founded by a 1979 revolution that toppled Shah Reza Pahlavi.
A man in the audience shouted “Death to America”, a cry taken up by the crowd.
Khamenei continued: “Of course yes, death to America, because America is the original source of this pressure.
They insist on putting pressure on our dear people’s economy. What’s their goal? their goal is to put the people against the system.”
The West suspects Iran of seeking the ability to produce nuclear weapons and the United Nations has imposed stringent economic sanctions on Tehran; Iran says its programme is intended only for peaceful purposes, such as medical technology and nuclear energy, and wants the swift lifting of sanctions.