Iran's Khamenei says not optimistic on nuclear talks: IRNA

A poster depicting images of Shi'ite Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is displayed at al-Firdous Square in Baghdad February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday he was not optimistic about upcoming nuclear talks with world powers but was not opposed to them, the official news agency IRNA reported.

Iran and world powers, grouped under the so-called “5+1,” reached an interim deal last November whereby Tehran agreed to suspend for six months parts of its nuclear enrichment operations in return for modest sanctions relief. The two sides hope to build on those gains in Tuesday’s talks in Vienna.

“I have said before ... I am not optimistic about the negotiations. It will not lead anywhere, but I am not opposed either,” Khamenei told a large crowd during a visit to the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz, according to IRNA.

“What our foreign ministry and officials have started will continue and Iran will not violate its (pledge) ... but I say again that this is of no use and will not lead anywhere.”

Khamenei, who has the final say in state affairs, has given guarded support to efforts by President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, to negotiate a way out of the nuclear impasse, which has led to international economic sanctions against Iran.

Western countries, led by the United States, suspect Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is entirely for civilian purposes.

Reporting by Michelle Moghtader, writing by Mehrdad Balali, editing by Sami Aboudi and Gareth Jones