Middle East

Iran’s Supreme Leader reappears in public, hits out at US

DUBAI (Reuters) -Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday used his first public appearance in weeks to suggest the United States would remain hostile towards the Islamic Republic even after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Speaking at his first public function since rumors surfaced in early December that his health was deteriorating, Khamenei said Washington could not be trusted, a remark indicating a wary attitude towards President Donald Trump’s successor.

In a meeting with organizers of events to mark the first anniversary of the killing of military commander Qassem Soleimani in a US attack in Iraq, Khamenei said American antagonism would not disappear with the end of the Trump administration.

“My firm recommendation is not to trust the enemy,” Khamenei said in remarks carried by state TV.

“The hostility (against Iran) is not just from Trump’s America, which supposedly some could say would end when he leaves, as (President Barack) Obama’s America also did bad things to …the Iranian nation.”

Biden was Obama’s vice president.

Earlier, President Hassan Rouhani said he was happy Trump was leaving office, calling him “the most lawless US president” and a “murderer” for hampering Iran’s access to Covid-19 vaccines.

“We are not overjoyed about Mr. Biden’s arrival, but we are happy about Trump leaving … that such a terrorist and murderer, who does not even have mercy for coronavirus vaccines, will be gone,” Rouhani said in a televised speech to the cabinet.


Iran says US sanctions are making it difficult for Iran to purchase medicine and health supplies from abroad, including COVID-19 vaccines needed to contain the worst outbreak in the Middle East.

The Trump administration has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s banking sector and its vital oil and gas industry since unilaterally withdrawing from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.

While Washington says that medicines and humanitarian goods are exempt from sanctions, the restrictions on trade and financial activities have deterred some foreign banks from processing financial transactions involving Iran.

TV footage showed Khamenei wearing a mask during Wednesday’s meeting and sitting at the head of a large room with several attendees seated to either side, in accordance with COVID-19 social distancing protocols.

The meeting followed rumors on social media earlier this month that the 81-year-old’s health was deteriorating.

Several news organizations had reported the rumors, referring to a tweet by a journalist in Arabic who said Khamenei had transferred duties to his son because of his health.

Khamenei has served as supreme leader since 1989, with the final say on all state matters. His health has been the subject of speculation for years.

Editing by Alison Williams, Angus MacSwan, William Maclean

IMAGE: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gestures during a meeting with organizers of events to mark the first anniversary of the killing of Iran’s top commander Qassem Soleimani, in Tehran, Iran December 16, 2020. Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

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