Iran’s Supreme Leader Backs Continued Talks

TEHRAN, Iran (Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday gave guarded support for continued negotiations over his nation’s nuclear program, in a signal that could help shield the talks from the criticism of hard-liners in Tehran.

“I do not disagree with the extension of negotiations, as I have not disagreed with negotiations in the first place,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in an address to the Basij militia group.

Negotiators for Iran and six world powers agreed Tuesday to extend the year-old talks by seven months because they did not reach an agreement by the self-imposed Monday deadline.

Khamenei gave no sign that he would support the kind of flexibility that may be needed to close a deal. He praised Iran’s negotiating team because “they have been firm, have not caved in.”

Earlier this week, Khamenei said the West had tried and failed to bring Iran “to its knees” with the talks, and insisted that Tehran would stick to its demands that it be allowed to develop an industrial-scale nuclear program.

The seven counties have been seeking a deal that would lift sanctions on Iran if it agrees to restrictions aimed at preventing it from gaining a nuclear bomb-making capability.