Iran supreme leader admits ‘mistake’ allowing nuke deal negotiations
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Iran supreme leader admits ‘mistake’ allowing nuke deal negotiations

Ayatollah Khamenei says talks with US which led to 2015 agreement brought ‘harm’; Rouhani accuses Washington of ‘destroying conditions’ for fresh deliberations

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, leading the Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Imam Khomeini grand mosque in the capital Tehran on June 15, 2018. (Iranian Supreme Leader's Website/AFP)
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, leading the Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Imam Khomeini grand mosque in the capital Tehran on June 15, 2018. (Iranian Supreme Leader's Website/AFP)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said it was a mistake to let his country’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif negotiate with his US counterpart over the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal and that the result was damaging.

“On the issue of JCPOA, it was my mistake to allow talks to be held between our Foreign Minister and them; it brought us harm,” Khamenei said, according to Reuters, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Signed between Iran and world powers in 2015, the pact saw heavy sanctions lifted from Iran in return for it curbing the weapons-capable aspects of its nuclear program.

Khamenei spoke on August 13, although his comments were only reported by Wednesday by Khat-e Hezbollah, a newsletter published by his official website.

The website said it was putting out a clarification of Khamenei’s comments because they had been distorted in earlier media reports, but did not offer any further explanation.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in May and recently reinstated severe sanctions, demanding that Iran agree to tighter restrictions on its nuclear program as well as its missile development activities. The other partners to the deal and Iran have all said they want to keep it going.

In this Sept. 26, 2015 file photo, Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

There has been widespread speculation over whether Iran would be forced back to the negotiating table following Washington’s withdrawal. The US has said it will punish any businesses which trade with Iran, including those in Europe, casting doubts on the ability of the deal to survive.

But Iran has rejected fresh talks, saying the US can no longer be trusted after violating its commitments under the deal.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, on Wednesday accused Washington of ruining the conditions for holding negotiations, apparently referring the US pullout and the sanctions which came into effect last week, with more planned for later in the year.

“The US has destroyed the conditions for holding talks,” Rouhani said. “We were negotiating in good manner, but the US ruined the bridge and stood on other side saying how can we pass.”

“If you wanted to pass the bridge why did you destroy it? You must set up the bridge to negotiate. You are to blame for the rift,” he added.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani smiles during a meeting with the North Korean foreign minister in the capital Tehran on August 8, 2018. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said that Iran must act to reduce the impact and influence of the reinstated US sanctions.

“The first priority for all of us under a sanctions situation is to work toward managing the country in a way that brings the least amount of damage to people’s lives,” Reuters reported citing the semi-official Fars News agency. “America is trying by applying various pressures on our society to force us to retreat and surrender.”

Khamenei vowed Monday that there would be neither war nor negotiations with the United States.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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