March 12, 2014
Ayatollah Khamenei backs Iran nuclear talks but not optimistic
Iran's supreme leader vowed to continue nuclear talks resuming with world powers tomorrow despite some reservations, in his strongest sign of support for moderate President Hassan Rouhani's push to resolve the conflict peacefully.
Iranian negotiators will hold a second round of talks with the United States and five other world powers in Vienna aimed at a definitive settlement of the dispute, which led to global economic sanctions against Iran.
The talks look to build on an earlier interim accord binding Iran to suspend some sensitive parts of its uranium enrichment in return for modest sanctions relief.
"What our officials started will continue. We will not renege. I have no opposition," said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to a crowd in northern city of Tabriz. "But I will say again: there is no use . . . it will not lead anywhere."
The US and its Western allies suspect Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons, a charge Tehran has steadfastly denied, insisting that its nuclear programme is peaceful.
The initial deal, reached in Geneva last November, angered Islamic hardliners who accused the government of selling out to the West by making concessions on a matter of national pride.
Khamenei, whose powers transcend all others in the Islamic republic, stopped short of endorsing the hardliners' charges but warned moderates not to get carried away with talk of better ties with traditional arch-foe, the United States.
Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said a deal was still within reach, despite problems between Tehran and Washington, if the Vienna talks remained focused on the nuclear issue.
"We must find a deal," Larijani told French daily Le Figaro.
"It's possible, on the condition that we don't add other topics to the agenda in Vienna like the question of our ballistic missiles, which the Americans say they want to examine."