Monday 19 February 2018

Iran's leader vows no retreat as nuclear talks get started

David Blair

Iran's supreme leader ruled out any "retreat" over his country's nuclear "rights" as a new round of talks with America and the world's leading powers began in Geneva.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a belligerent speech in Tehran, denouncing two of the six countries whose representatives will meet Iran's foreign minister.

France was guilty of "kneeling" before Israel, he said, while America "considered itself superior to mankind". Israel, meanwhile, was led by people unworthy of "the title human".

Ayatollah Khamenei's attack provoked an angry reaction from France. It also provided a reminder of the scrutiny that Iran's negotiators in Geneva will be under from the man who controls their government.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, met Baroness Ashton, the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs, in Geneva yesterday. Lady Ashton chairs the "P5 plus 1", consisting of the five permanent members of the Security Council – America, Britain, France, Russia and China – along with Germany.

This group negotiates with Iran over the nuclear issue and the new talks are planned to last until tomorrow.

Officials from all sides have voiced optimism that an agreement is possible. One diplomat close to the talks said the outline of a possible deal was already on the table.

This would be a "first step" agreement designed to freeze Iran's nuclear programme in return for a limited easing of sanctions.

In a rare televised speech to the Basij militia, Ayatollah Khamenei said: "I insist on stabilising the rights of the Iranian nation, including the nuclear rights."

He added: "I insist on not retreating one step from the rights of the Iranian nation."

Turning on Israel, Mr Khamenei said the "Zionist regime is a regime whose pillars are extremely shaky and is doomed to collapse. Any phenomenon that is created by force cannot endure".

He added: "The enemies of Iran – and particularly the rabid dog of the region, the Zionist regime – sometimes malevolently claim that Iran is a threat to the entire world. No. The threat is the Zionist regime and some of its supporters."

Israel's leaders, added Mr Khamenei, were unworthy of "the title of human". They were also manipulating other countries in their own interests, he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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