Iran's supreme leader said the slogan "Death to America" is not aimed at the American people, but rather American policies, in comments reported on his official website Tuesday.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei discussed the slogan while meeting with Iranian students ahead of the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979. Militant students stormed the compound and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
The two countries have had no diplomatic relations since then. However, current President Hassan Rouhani has made efforts to improve relations, including a landmark nuclear agreement reached with world powers in July.
'Death to US policies'
Khamenei said the "aim of the slogan is not death to American people. The slogan means death to U.S. policies and arrogance."
The slogan has "strong support" In Iran, he said.
Khamenei and hard-liners in the Iranian government remain deeply suspicious of the United States and view its policies a threat to the country.
The supreme leader said the U.S. has tried "to influence new figures" in Iran to conceal its "enemy image" from the Iranian nation.
He urged the students not to trust the U.S., saying, "the Americans shed tears in front of cameras pretending they are against war. These are the same people who do not even frown when the Zionists slaughter hundreds of children in Gaza and attack the West Bank.
"How can their tears shed in front of cameras be considered an honest act?" he asked.
Khamenei reiterated his warning that the U.S. is not to be trusted despite the nuclear deal reached with the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.
The agreement promises Tehran relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
"The nature of the U.S. attitude is continuation of the same hostile aims from the past, and the nation will not forget this," Khamenei said.