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Iranian Leader: Western Powers Failed to Bring Iran to its Knees

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FILE - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

FILE - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says the United States and "European colonialist powers" failed in their efforts to bring Iran "to its knees" during negotiations on the country's nuclear program.

The comments posted on his website Tuesday are his first since negotiators from Iran and a group of world powers agreed to extend talks on Iran's nuclear program through the middle of next year.

The extension came after the two sides failed to reach an agreement by the end of Monday to ensure Iran's nuclear program is peaceful in exchange for easing sanctions that have hurt the country's economy.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Iran and the group that includes the U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany are closer than ever to reaching a long-sought deal. He reported progress on what he called some of the most "vexing" issues that remain unresolved.

But he also insisted that verification be the centerpiece of any final agreement that defines the scope of Iran's nuclear program. He warned that international powers are not going to wait forever to see signs of tangible progress.

State media quoted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as saying Tehran will be the eventual winner of the negotiations, which have a new deadline of June 30, 2015.

Rouhani said differences between the two sides have narrowed, and that he is "certain" a final deal will be reached.

Diplomats said gaps remain on key issues, including the number of centrifuges Iran would be allowed to operate, as well as the levels of uranium enrichment it can undertake. Kerry said it is important not to reveal details of the sticking points, because it could damage efforts to find a solution.

Iran has insisted its nuclear program is solely for peaceful, civilian purposes such as medical research and generating power.

In Washington, reaction to the extension was mixed. Congressional Democrats largely supported the move, while key Republicans warned that Congress must have the opportunity to review any final deal before it is implemented.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner also warned that the extension allows Tehran time to gain further concessions at a time when "we should be holding this [Iranian] regime accountable for the threat it poses to the region and our allies."

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