TEHRAN, Iran (AA) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Thursday that Tehran will not give up its regional presence and nuclear program.
Speaking at a meeting of the Assembly of Experts, a powerful 88-member body of top clerics that monitors the lawmakers, Khamenei said it is vital for any country to have national power.
“Regional presence gives us more strategic depth and national strength,” he said, in the presence of President Ebrahim Raisi. “Why should we give it up?”
Khamenei said nuclear advancements were tied to the country’s needs in near future, adding that if Iran abandons its nuclear program, it will have to bank on others to fulfill those needs.
Khamenei’s remarks came as the marathon nuclear talks in Vienna enter the final leg and parties get busy with last-ditch efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord.
While top Iranian officials have confirmed that the deal is almost ready to be sealed, they have also pointed to some “outstanding issues” and “political decisions” that need to be taken, throwing the ball in the US court.
In an indirect message to Iranian negotiators in Vienna, Khamenei said retreating in the face of the US or any other power to protect itself against sanctions is a “big mistake”, which “deals a blow to political power”.
He said such “naive proposals” had been pitched to Iranian officials in the past also but were rejected.
The Iranian leader said any nation seeking independence should “stand strong”, warning that otherwise they will be “fearful, weak, humiliated and constantly worried about the greed of foreigners.”
Expert-level talks and formal meetings between Iran and P4+1 (China, Russia, UK, France and Germany) have ended after 11 months, according to the European Union chief coordinator, Enrique Mora.
Iran’s lead negotiator, Ali Bagheri, made a whirlwind trip to Tehran on Tuesday for last-minute consultations, before heading back to the Austrian capital Wednesday morning.
Earlier on Thursday, Iran’s top security official, who has the task of supervising progress in the nuclear talks, said the US was “not interested in a strong deal that would satisfy both parties”.
“The US approach to Iran’s principled demands, coupled with its unreasonable offers and unjustified pressure to hastily reach an agreement showed that it wasn’t interested in a strong and balanced deal,” said Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).
In the absence of US political decision, he asserted, the talks were getting “knottier by the hour.”