Ayatollah rejects offer of Iran talks with Trump
Iran's supreme leader has rejected US President Donald Trump's offer of unconditional talks to improve bilateral ties and also accused the Iranian government of economic mismanagement in the face of reimposed US sanctions.
Washington reimposed the sanctions last week after pulling out of a 2015 international deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear programme in return for an easing of economic sanctions. Mr Trump has also threatened to penalise companies that continue to operate in Iran.
"I ban holding any talks with America ... America never remains loyal to its promises in talks," said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on policy in the Islamic Republic.
"America's withdrawal from the nuclear deal is a clear proof America cannot be trusted," Mr Khamenei told a gathering of thousands of Iranians.
The sanctions target Iran's trade in gold and other precious metals, its purchases of US dollars and its car industry.
Washington had said Iran's only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept Trump's offer to negotiate for a tougher nuclear deal. Iranian officials had already rejected the offer but it is the first time Mr Khamenei has publicly commented. But he ruled out the possibility of war with the United States, saying: "They are exaggerating the possibility of a war with Iran. There will be no war ... We have never started a war and they will not confront Iran militarily," he said.
Mr Khamenei, whose remarks come amid a sharp fall in the rial currency, prompting angry protests, criticised the government of President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist cleric who championed the 2015 deal aimed at ending Iran's political and economic isolation.
"More than the sanctions, economic mismanagement is putting pressure on ordinary Iranians ... I do not call it betrayal but a huge mistake in management," Mr Khamenei said. "With better management and more efficient planning, we can resist the sanctions and overcome them," he added, in an apparent effort to deflect public anger over the economy towards Mr Rouhani.
European countries, which still back the 2015 deal, fear Mr Trump's moves will undermine Mr Rouhani and strengthen the hand of his hard-line rivals in the clerical establishment.
The rial has lost about half of its value since April in anticipation of the renewed US sanctions.