Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Iran's Top Leader Backs Nuclear Negotiators ; but Khamenei Also Says He's Not Hopeful That Deal Can Be Reached with West

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Iran's Top Leader Backs Nuclear Negotiators ; but Khamenei Also Says He's Not Hopeful That Deal Can Be Reached with West

Article excerpt

Iran's supreme leader reaffirmed his full backing of the country's nuclear negotiating team on Sunday, buying time for Iranian diplomats trying to work out a deal with world powers.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, reaffirmed his full backing of the country's nuclear negotiating team on Sunday, buying time for Iranian diplomats trying to work out a deal with world powers.

But Mr. Khamenei, who holds the final word on the nuclear talks, also said he was not optimistic that a deal could actually be reached with Western powers, especially the United States.

The talks, he said in a meeting with students, deserved a chance. He warned hard-liners on Sunday not to undermine President Hassan Rouhani's negotiating team, which has reported progress in the talks, but not elaborated on its details.

Negotiations are scheduled to resume in Geneva on Nov. 7 and 8.

First muffled by Mr. Rouhani's surprising June election victory, Iranian hard-liners, conservative clerics and military commanders have in recent weeks increased attacks on the negotiators, saying they have not been transparent and accusing them of possibly squandering Iranian "rights" in a potential deal.

Mr. Rouhani has been trying to get sanctions on oil sales lifted and has promised a nuclear solution acceptable to all parties within 12 months.

Mr. Khamenei came out strongly in the team's defense. "No one has the right to see our negotiating team as compromisers," the leader's personal website quoted him as saying Sunday, a day before the Nov. 4 anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran, which ended United States-Iranian relations.

"They are our own children and children of the revolution. They have a difficult mission and no one has right to weaken an official who is doing his job," Mr. Khamenei's website quoted him as saying.

The full support of Iran's leader buys time for the Iranian negotiators. They have been trying to find a balance between Iran's rigid ideological policies of resistance and anti-Israeli stances, which have been major obstacles to a nuclear deal and overall normalization of relations with the West. …

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