Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defended the moderate President Hassan Rowhani Saturday, demanding tolerance from opponents who have criticized him over talks with world powers on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, Agence France-Presse reported.
Khamenei renewed his confidence after days of public spats between Rowhani’s government and hardline opponents and as Tehran held what it called a “satisfactory” round of talks with visiting U.N. inspectors.
The row started after Rowhani’s government making a deal with world powers in November which 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,” AFP quoted him as saying.
“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 criticizing 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 Rouwani 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.
‘U.S. would overthrow Tehran’
The supreme guide, meanwhile, 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, Reuters reported Iranian media as saying.
In a speech to mark the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Khamenei 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.
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.”
The United States and Iran have had no official ties since 1980 after Iranian students occupied the U.S. 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.
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