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Khamenei criticizes Iranian president, foreign minister over nuclear deal

Khamenei's comments targeted the highest officials in Iran (Getty)

Date of publication: 23 May, 2019

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In extraordinary comments, Iran's Supreme Leader criticized the country's president and its foreign minister, over their handling of the 2015 nuclear deal which the US has withdrawn from.

Iran's supreme leader publicly chastised the country's president and foreign minister Wednesday, saying that he disagreed with the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal they had negotiated with world powers.

The extraordinary comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the first time he's criticized both politicians by name, came amid tensions with the United States a year after Washington's withdrawal from the accord.

Khamenei has final say on all matters of state, and his assigning of blame for the unravelling of the deal limits the influence of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif - relative moderates within Iran's theocracy who had struck the deal.

It also shows the growing power of hard-liners.

Khamenei made the comments before students gathered for a Ramadan lecture. For years, hard-liners have criticized the accord for giving too much away to the West.

Khamenei had previously given his implicit stamp of approval on the deal, which when signed sparked spontaneous celebrations across Iran. The accord saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

But the deal has unraveled after Trump's withdrawal, with the U.S. re-imposing old sanctions and coming up with even stricter new ones.

"To some extent, I did not believe in the way that the nuclear deal was implemented," Khamenei said, according to his official website. "Many times I reminded both the president and the foreign minister."

Khamenei has previously warned the West, especially the U.S., wasn't trustworthy. But he hasn't named the country's top elected politician and his top diplomat before Wednesday night. He's previously said the two had done the best they could.

Since Trump's pullout last year and the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions in November, Iran's economy has been significantly harmed, notably because of the loss of revenue from oil exports and the risk of incurring U.S. penalties that has dissuaded international companies from opening shop in Iran.

There was no immediate comment from either Rouhani, who is serving his second four-year term as president, or Zarif.

Khamenei did not directly address the ongoing tensions, which include a heightened U.S. naval presence in the region.

On Monday, Iran announced it had quadrupled its production capacity of low-enriched uranium. Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the nuclear deal, making it usable for a power plant but far below what's needed for an atomic weapon.

Meanwhile, Iran's army chief Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi alleged without providing evidence that Saudi Arabia and the U.S. were behind the sabotage of the oil tankers off the UAE, as well as a rocket that landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The U.S. has blamed Iran for both incidents without publicly offering evidence. America also has evacuated nonessential diplomatic staff from Iraq amid the tensions.

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