Khamenei puts foot down

Iran's supreme leader, ­Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said he has set limits for the country's ­negotiators at nuclear talks.

As senior diplomats from Iran and six major powers gathered once again in the Swiss lakeside city of Geneva, 10 days after coming close to a historic deal, Khamenei delivered a defiant speech to volunteer militiamen, the Basij, in an apparent attempt to reassure the country's hardliners that the regime was not making strategic concessions.

"We insist that we will not step back one iota from our rights," the supreme leader said.

The 74-year-old cleric is the single most powerful figure in the regime, but despite his title, does not wield absolute power. Rather, he has to juggle a variety of interest groups and factions. The Basij are under the control of the powerful Revolutionary Guards force.

Khamenei used his speech to reaffirm his overall control over the direction of the talks, which are being conducted by a team led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

"We do not intervene in the details of these talks. There are certain red lines and limits. These have to be observed. They are instructed to abide by those limits," he said.

Security for the three days of negotiations in Geneva was noticeably higher than for the previous round, following Tuesday's bomb attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut, which killed at least 22 people.

The previous round of nuclear talks ended in the early hours of November 10, amid differences on whether any interim agreement should state that Iran had a right to enrich uranium, and whether any construction work should continue on Iran's heavy water reactor in Arak.

In the run-up to the latest round, due to finish on Friday November 22, there were signs that the gaps on both issues had narrowed, with Zarif saying that Iran did not require other countries' permission to continue enrichment, and the emergence of a possible compromise over Arak in which work on uranium fuel assemblies would be halted, while other construction continued.

In his speech, Khamenei singled out France for criticism, probably in response to the tough line taken at the previous Geneva round by the French delegation.

French officials, Khamenei said, were "not only succumbing to the United States, but they are kneeling before the Israeli regime".

He derided US government policies, but insisted that Iran had no animosity towards the American people.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kept up a lobbying campaign against the proposed interim deal with Iran, flying to Moscow on Wednesday to urge Vladimir Putin to toughen the Russian negotiating position in Geneva. Disagreements on the negotiations have already caused a significant cooling in relations between Israel and the US.  – © Guardian News & Media 2013

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Julian Borger
Julian Borger
Julian Borger is a British journalist and non-fiction writer. He is the world affairs editor at The Guardian. He was a correspondent in the US, eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Balkans and covered the Bosnian War for the BBC. Borger is a contributor to Center of International Cooperation.

Related stories

The orchestrators of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen

As the crisis continues to unfold, the biggest threat may be the vested interest in maintaining the civil war Therefore, with no end in sight to the conflict plaguing the nation, the question worth asking is: who benefits from a Yemen at war?

Surviving Covid-19 — and Modi

A religious and nationalist agenda has replaced the promise of development and left India ill-equipped to manage the pandemic

Far right uses coronavirus to scapegoat refugees

Europe’s far-right nationalists are closing their borders and using Covid-19 as a guise to deport and deny entry to refugees and asylum seekers

South Africa’s travel ban commences

The travel restrictions will allow South Africa to turn back passengers arriving from areas affected by Covid-19 that are deemed high risk

Women in the Middle East North African region pushing back against patriarchy

The scales are still tilted in favour of men, but younger people with tertiary education have less discriminatory attitudes

665 to 12-million infected: The possible SA coronavirus numbers

If nothing changes and infections continue to increase at the current rate, South African healthcare facilities could be further overwhelmed

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday