Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel “a bastard regime” Sunday, while expressing skepticism over the current round of international talks on Iran’s nuclear program.
His words came two days before Iran and six world powers are set to resume talks on curbing uranium enrichment, with hopes for a rare breakthrough after years of no progress.
“The Zionist regime is an illegitimate and bastard regime,” Khamenei said via his website, according to an AFP report. He added that the Americans “have to” have the “highest indulgence towards the Zionists,” but Iran does not “share such indulgence.”
Iran and world powers are to start a two-day meeting on Thursday in Geneva about Tehran’s nuclear program. The West suspects Iran is developing weapons technology. Iran denies it, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The negotiators “are on a difficult mission and nobody should weaken those who are on assignment,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei as saying, in a show of support for President Hassan Rouhani’s policy of outreach to the West.
Khamenei has final say on all matters of state, but has seemingly given Rouhani and his cabinet a free hand to pursue talks with the West.
He made the comment during an address to students marking the anniversary of the Iranian takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
“I am not optimistic about the outcome of the talks but… we will not be hurt by carrying out negotiations,” the supreme leader said, adding that the US should not be trusted because even though the Americans “express interest” in discussions, they “keep smiling on one hand, and then immediately say they have all options on the table” — in a reference to a potential military strike on Iran.
Khamenei also praised Iranian militant students who stormed the US embassy in 1979, sparking a crisis that contributed significantly to the bitterness between the two countries.
“Thirty years ago, our young people called the US Embassy a ‘den of spies’… It means our young people were 30 years ahead of their time,” he said, a reference to a series of reports of US eavesdropping on foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Hard-line factions have pledged to stage a major anti-US rally November 4, the anniversary of the takeover. The date is marked each year by gatherings outside the former embassy’s brick walls, which are covered with anti-American murals. But the fervor has waned in recent years, with authorities bringing school children by bus to help fill out the crowds. It is seen as an opportunity for hard-liners to put further pressure on Rouhani’s diplomacy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.