STOCKHOLM - Iran's supreme leader says the United States and its allies are lying about Iran's nuclear program to cover up their own problems. The Obama administration says it is easy enough for Iran to resolve the dispute by taking concrete steps to demonstrate that it is not developing atomic weapons.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Western sanctions against Iran's nuclear program will not impede Tehran's progress, but will instead deepen hatred of the West in the hearts of the Iranian people.
At a ceremony marking Sunday's 23rd anniversary of the death of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's supreme leader said political and media talk about the dangers of a nuclear Iran is unfounded, and what the West should be afraid of is not a nuclear Iran, but an Islamic Iran.
Asked about those comments following talks in the Swedish capital, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Iran has long maintained that it has no nuclear weapons program, so she draws no conclusions about how Khamenei's statement might affect ongoing negotiations. "I have long ago separated the words from the actions in dealing with regimes across the globe. Many countries and their leaders say a lot of things for domestic purposes, to lay down markers, to make their views clear to difference audiences," she said.
Iranian nuclear negotiators meet later this month in Moscow with officials from Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the United States. By those talks, Clinton says the international community will know whether Iran is prepared to take concrete actions to prove its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes. "The best way for Iran to fulfill their obligations and to dismiss the worries that the rest of the world has about their intentions and their actions is to come to the table in Moscow in a few weeks and begin the serious work that has to take place in order to reach a diplomatic resolution," she said.
Clinton says that is the resolution that President Barack Obama has sought from the beginning of his administration. "We now have an opportunity to achieve it. And we hope it is an opportunity that is not lost, for everyone's sake," she said.
Israel is cautioning against any concessions to Iran at those talks, and is threatening to use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Khamenei said Iran would respond "like thunder" to any Israeli aggression. Clinton says there is nothing new in Iranians saying they will take actions to defend themselves.