Iran’s Khamenei Says Talks Don’t Change U.S. Enmity

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he supported negotiations with world powers even after the latest talks had exposed the U.S. government’s enmity for the Islamic Republic.

“No one should be under the illusion that the enemies of the Islamic revolution have today given up their enmity,” Khamenei said in a speech in the religious city of Qom, the Fars news agency reported. While “the enemy’s smile shouldn’t be taken seriously,” he said that on key issues Iran “will negotiate with this Satan, to deter its evil and solve problems.”

Iran and nations including the U.S. reached an interim agreement in November for the Islamic Republic to halt part of its nuclear activities in return for limited sanctions relief. The accord, intended to be followed by a final settlement within six months, hasn’t yet been implemented. Iranian, U.S. and European Union officials are due to hold talks this week in Geneva to resolve technical obstacles.

“Khamenei talks tough but so far he has supported negotiations,” said Alireza Nader, a senior analyst at the Rand Corp., a policy research institute, in Washington. “He is also hedging his bets and is mindful of his conservative base that are skeptical of negotiations and U.S. intentions.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who took office in August, has promised to reduce Tehran’s diplomatic isolation and ease the sanctions that are squeezing the economy.

Some U.S. politicians have opposed concessions to Iran. Fifty-three senators have signed on to a measure introduced by Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Mark Kirk to impose a new round of sanctions if Iran violates the interim accord or fails to reach a final agreement.

“The introduction of the new sanctions bill has angered Iranian elites,” said Cliff Kupchan, director for the Middle East at New York-based Eurasia Group, which monitors political risks. “It probably epitomizes in Khamenei’s mind how the Americans think about Iran, in that even when Iran is trying to negotiate, they get whacked.”

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