DUBAI, April 29 President Hassan Rouhani, in a riposte to hardliners who suggest he is capitulating to the West, accused critics of his government on Tuesday of using lies and exaggeration to oppose his policies, including Iran's nuclear talks with world powers.
In an interview on state television, Rouhani suggested his critics were a "tiny minority" who had profited from sanctions and feared losing out if curbs were removed with an eventual resolution of Iran's nuclear dispute with the West.
Rouhani and his negotiators have been under strong pressure from Islamic hardliners opposed to the talks with the United States and five other powers seeking curbs on Iran's nuclear programme in return for an end to sanctions against Tehran.
As the talks move toward a possible deal by late July, the hardliners, many of them hold-outs from the administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have stepped up their campaign, accusing Rouhani of sacrificing national pride and revolutionary identity for the sake of an agreement.
Rouhani said he would not compromise when it came to the national interest, adding that sanctions were a "big injustice."
"Through lies and hype, some people try to derail the government from its path," Rouhani said. "This is against national interests and the leader's order ... We do not compromise on people's interests.
"Sanctions were a big injustice and our nation suffered ... but a handful profited, as sanctions removed transparency in society and economy.
"Our people are happy about removal of the sanctions, and just a tiny minority is angry because they have come to lose ... that's where all attempts at tarnishing the government originate," he added.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wields unmatched power in Iran's Islamic system, has cautiously endorsed the talks between Iran and six world powers: the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia.
But he has insisted Tehran keeps the right to uranium enrichment for scientific research, expressing scepticism that the West is really ready to abandon what he sees as its hostility to the Islamic Republic.
After four rounds of talks, Iran and the major powers are due to meet again at expert level in New York on May 5-9 to start writing the final draft of a nuclear deal.
Western powers suspect the programme is aimed at developing the ability to manufacture a nuclear bomb. Iran says the programme is solely for civilian purposes such as electricity generation.
Rouhani did not identify his critics or give examples of the exaggeration.
But analysts have said the main domestic obstacle Rouhani faces is the attitude of hardliners represented by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a military force that has accumulated great economic and political power in recent years. Its commanders have spoken warily of the nuclear negotiations.
Imposed mostly by Western countries, the sanctions have kept Western oil companies away from Iran's energy sector, leaving space for Guards firms to win some lucrative contracts.
The 125,000-strong IRGC, an elite force that was established to protect Iran's revolution in 1979, has a military budget that is believed to dwarf that of the regular army. But much of its clout comes from positions held by former members in parliament, in the cabinet, as provincial governors and on Khamenei's staff. (Reporting by Mehrdad. Writing by William Maclean. Editing by Andre Grenon)