Supreme Leader of Iran: Muslim Nations 'Hate America'

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, June 4, 2009; 4:51 PM

TEHRAN, June 4 -- Iran's supreme leader dismissed President Obama's speech at Cairo University Thursday, saying the Muslim world continues to "hate America." And he criticized the United States and its allies for asserting that Iran seeks nuclear weapons, which he insisted are forbidden under Iran's brand of Islam.</p>

<p>Speaking shortly before Obama delivered his address, in which he called for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that "beautiful speeches" could not remove the hatred felt in the Muslim world against America. </p>

<p>"People of the Middle East, the Muslim region and North Africa -- people of these regions -- hate America from the bottom of their heart," Khamenei said at a gathering to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and Khamenei's predecessor as the predominantly Shiite Muslim country's supreme religious leader.</p>

<p>"For a long time, these people have witnessed aggressive actions by America, and that's why they hate them," Khamenei, 69, told a crowd of several thousand supporters in his televised speech. He attributed these feelings to "violence, military intervention, rights violations and discrimination" by the United States. </p>

<p>Alluding to Obama's new approach in foreign affairs, he said that the previous administration of President George W. Bush had left an "ill-mannered image" of itself in the world.</p>

<p>"The new U.S. government seeks to transform this image," Khamenei said. "I say firmly that this will not be achieved by talking, speech and slogans." He added, "Even if [Obama] delivers hundreds of speeches and talks very sweetly, there will not be a change in how the Islamic countries perceive the United States." He called on Obama to deliver change "in practice."</p>

<p>Khamenei also denounced Israel as a "cancerous tumor in the heart" of the Islamic world, and he accused the U.S. military of "bombing innocent civilians" in Afghanistan. "What is the difference between this killing and killing by terrorists?" he asked rhetorically.</p>

<p> Regarding Iran's nuclear program, the main issue of contention between his country and the United States, Khamenei reiterated Tehran's assertions that it seeks only to generate electricity, and he referred to a religious edict, or fatwa, that he issued at least four years ago in which he declared that the production, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons was prohibited under Islam. The Iranian government cited the fatwa at an August 2005 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.</p>

<p>"Our nation says we want to have a nuclear industry," Khamenei said Thursday. "We want to use nuclear energy in a peaceful way. However, the West and America say that the Iranian nation is seeking to make a nuclear bomb. Why are they telling lies?" </p>

<p>The senior Shiite cleric continued: "The Iranian government and nation have repeatedly said that we do not want nuclear weapons. We have announced that according to Islamic principles, the use of nuclear weapons is forbidden. It is dangerous to keep nuclear weapons. We are not seeking to have them. We do not want them."</p>

<p>Khamenei, who served as president of Iran for eight years in the 1980s, succeeded Khomeini as supreme leader in 1989, becoming the nation's highest-ranking political and religious authority. As such, he is more powerful than President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and appoints many key leaders, including the commanders of the armed forces and members of national security councils dealing with defense and foreign affairs.</p>

<p>Other Iranians reacted cautiously to Obama's speech. In it, the U.S. president acknowledged that the United States had "played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government" in 1953, but he pointed as well to an Iranian role in "acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians" since the 1979 Islamic revolution.</p>

<p>"Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward," Obama said. "The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build."</p>

<p>Obama also said that "we have reached a decisive point" on nuclear weapons and the need to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. But he said that "any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."</p>

<p>Mohammad Marandi, the head of the North American Studies Department at Tehran University, said of Obama's speech, "I didn't hear many new things from Obama. We need to see fundamental change in American policies. People in this region are expecting change as much as the people in the United States."</p>

<p>Marandi added in a telephone interview: "When Obama says that he recognizes Iran's rights to having peaceful nuclear energy, does that mean he will honor that right in negotiations with Iran? Or is this rhetoric? This is what we want to know."</p>

<p>However, political commentator Ali Reza Khamesian described Obama's acknowledgment of Iran's right to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes as "a step forward for better ties with the United States," the Associated Press reported.</p>

<p></p>

<p>Branigin reported from Washington.</p>


More Middle East Coverage

America at War

America at War

Full coverage of U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Line of Separation

Line of Separation

A detailed look at Israel's barrier to separate it from the West Bank.

facebook

Connect Online

Share and comment on Post world news on Facebook and Twitter.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity