Tehran: Iran’s supreme leader said on Sunday he is not optimistic but supports revived talks with world powers over his country’s nuclear drive as they are incapable of hurting the Islamic republic.
The remarks by the all-powerful Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came ahead of a new round of negotiations with the so-called P5+1 group of world powers in Geneva on November 7 and 8.
“I am not optimistic about the negotiations but, with the grace of God, we will not suffer losses either,” Khamenei said, quoted by his official website Khamenei.ir.
“All the better if the negotiations bear fruit but if there are no results, the country should rely on itself,” he told a group of students at his residence, a day before the anniversary of the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.
Next week’s talks are aimed at curbing Iran’s sensitive nuclear work in exchange for an easing of international sanctions strangling its ailing economy.
It will be the second such meeting since Hassan Rouhani took office as Iran’s president in August with a stated mandate of lifting the sanctions through constructive engagement.
All decisions on the nuclear programme, which the West suspects is masking a military drive despite repeated Iranian denials, rest with Khamenei.
Khamenei also criticised the US policy of approaching Iran’s nuclear work on two fronts of sanctions and diplomacy.
“The Americans smile and express desire for negotiation; on the other hand, they immediately say that all options are on the table,” he said, referring to US and Israeli threats of military action should the talks fail.
“We should not trust a smiling enemy,” Khamenei warned, as the crowd of students chanted “Death to America”.
In March the supreme leader warned the United States was “not interested in a nuclear settlement,” and in July he said American officials were “not trustworthy”.
The talks between both Iranian negotiators and P5+1 representatives from the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany were restarted last month in Geneva. Both sides say they see the new push as substantive.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who oversees Iran’s negotiating team, said he hoped the meeting would usher in a “new phase” of relations with between Tehran and the international community.
But Zarif’s team has faced criticism at home from hardliners wary that the negotiators could compromise Iran’s nuclear work. The disapproval peaked in late October when anti-American posters questioning Washington’s sincerity in the talks went up on Tehran’s streets, before the authorities removed them.
Khamenei on Sunday warned against such criticism, while expressing support for the “difficult” task at hand.
“No one should see our negotiating team as compromisers,” he said.
“They have undertaken a difficult mission and no one should undermine an agent on a mission.”
The administration of US President Barack Obama has said it is important to test the sincerity of Iran’s promise to hold serious discussions on its nuclear drive, while promising to keep its allies, including the Israelis, informed about the process.
Khamenei was also critical of the close US alliance with the Israelis, whose existence the Islamic republic does not recognise.
“The Americans have the highest indulgence towards the Zionists and they have to. But we do not share such indulgence,” he said.
“The Zionist regime is an illegitimate and bastard regime,” he said.
His remarks reaffirmed Tehran’s position on the Israeli regime, which has been toned down since the departure from office of hardline former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.