DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran’s ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Sunday accused the United States and its allies of lying about the threat of a nuclear Iran to cover up their own problems, state television reported.
In a televised address marking the 23rd anniversary of the death of Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, Khameini also warned Israel against any attack on Iran, saying it would receive a “thunderous blow”.
Khamenei - who has total command over Iran’s nuclear policy - has publicly forbidden the development of nuclear weapons, but Western nations suspect that Tehran is developing in isolation each of the components required for an atomic bomb capability.
“What Americans and Westerners do is idiotic. They magnify the nuclear issue to cover up their own problems,” Khamenei said, referring to the continuing economic gloom in the U.S. and Europe.
“They are deceitfully using the term nuclear weapons,” he added.
Iran’s supreme leader said Israeli talk of military strikes showed it felt vulnerable after the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a U.S. and Western ally, last year. “If they take any calculated action, they will receive a thunderous blow.”
On Saturday a senior military commander said Iranian missiles could reach all parts of Israel and threatened U.S. bases in the region if Iran was attacked.
Away from what is common-place fiery rhetoric in Tehran, Iran held negotiations with world powers in Baghdad on May 23-24 in an attempt to reach agreement over concerns about its nuclear program.
Diplomats say Iranian negotiators were more forthcoming than in previous attempts to find a solution, and believe Khamenei has given his negotiating team a wider hand to explore a deal as sanctions continue to bite deep into the Iranian economy.
Iran maintains he will not give up its rights to establish a peaceful nuclear program but has at times appeared flexible to curbing high-grade uranium enrichment that is the West’s most pressing concern.
Another round of talks has been scheduled for June 18-19 in Moscow.
Editing by Alessandra Rizzo