TEHRAN (AFP) – Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in his new year address to the nation on Sunday accused the US president of plotting against Iran as crowds of worshippers shouted “Death to Obama!”
In his defiant outburst, the all-powerful Khamenei dismissed President Barack Obama’s frequent offers of dialogue with Iran which began with last year’s historic Nowrouz greeting marking the Persian new year.
Khamenei’s personal tirade comes as Tehran is locked in a stalemate over its nuclear programme, with Washington pushing for a fourth round of sanctions against the Islamic republic.
He lashed out at the Obama administration in his speech, broadcast live on state television, saying after last June’s presidential election, the United States had taken a “worst stand” against Tehran.
He said Obama’s offer last year of a “new beginning” with Tehran turned out to be “deceptive,” as he had thought at the time that it would be.
“The US government and new administration claimed they wanted to have fair and correct relations, wrote letters and sent messages and even shouted through loudspeakers ‘we want to normalise relations with the Islamic republic,’ but unfortunately in practice they did the opposite,” Khamenei said.
“The US president called the (post-election) rioters human rights activists.
“You take the side of rioters and call it a civil movement. Are you not ashamed? You are in no position to speak of human rights. Did you reduce the killings in Iraq and Afghanistan?” Khamenei asked as worshippers, their fists raised, chanted “Death to Obama! Death to America!”
Khamenei, who is also Iran’s military commander-in-chief, said that Iran “condemns” such “arrogant” powers.
“You cannot talk about peace and friendship and at the same time plot and plan sedition and think that you can hurt the regime of the Islamic republic of Iran,” he said.
A significant part of his speech focused on the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying the nation’s “enemies had plans” to derail the poll but that this was prevented by a massive voter turn-out.
“By resorting to violence, they wanted to change the result of the election. they wanted to trigger violence by bringing people to the arena and by burning buses… but the Iranian nation triumphed,” the cleric said.
“They wanted to divide the people between majority and minority… and to spark a civil war, but the nation was alert. If they had been able to do so, the US and Zionist regime would have sent troops to Tehran’s streets, but they knew it would hurt them. So they spread propaganda and supported the rioters.”
Dozens of people were killed in post-election clashes between supporters of Ahmadinejad’s defeated rivals and security forces. Opposition groups charge that the June election was massively rigged in Ahmadinejad’s favour.
The post-election crisis shook the pillars of the Islamic regime and also caused divisions among the ranks of senior clergy.
Obama on Saturday reached out to the Iranian populace rather than to their leaders.
“Even as we continue to have differences with the Iranian government, we will sustain our commitment to a more hopeful future for the Iranian people,” he said in a Nowrouz message released by the White House.
“Over the course of the last year, it is the Iranian government that has chosen to isolate itself, and to choose a self-defeating focus on the past over a commitment to build a better future.”
Obama also promised US efforts to “ensure that Iranians can have access to the software and Internet technology that will enable them to communicate with each other, and with the world, without fear of censorship.”
Opposition supporters in Iran used social networking sites and services such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube during the post-poll unrest.
Obama vowed to hold Tehran “accountable” because he said it had refused to live up to its obligations over its nuclear programme.
The West accuses Iran of developing nuclear technology to produce atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
But Khamenei said Iran was “awake… and monitoring the behaviour of its enemies… and will never give up national interests in the face of enemy anger.”