ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday blamed the United States for instability in the Middle East and said Washington’s fight against the Islamic State militant group was “a lie”.
“You (the United States) and your agents are the source of instability in the Middle East...who created Islamic State? America ... America’s claim of fighting against Islamic State is a lie,” Khamenei said in a meeting with high-ranking Iranian officials, according to his official website.
Iran and the United States cut diplomatic ties shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and enmity to Washington has long been a rallying point for hardline supporters of Khamenei in Iran.
Khamenei has made several statements denouncing the United States since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, while U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken out against Iran in harsh terms since taking office, indicating that he will reverse the previous admistration’s attempts at rapprochement with Tehran.
The Iranian leader has accused the United States and its regional ally Saudi Arabia of funding hardline Sunni militants, including Islamic State, which carried out its first attack in Iran on Wednesday in Tehran, killing 17 people.
Riyadh has denied involvement in the suicide bombings and gun attacks on Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who favours opening up to the world, has condemned the attacks, without pointing a finger at any country.
The pragmatist president championed a nuclear deal with the United States and five other powers in 2015 that led to the lifting of most sanctions against Iran, in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
But the deal has not led to normalization of ties between the two countries that Rouhani hoped for. Trump has frequently called the agreement “one of the worst deals ever signed” and said Washington would review it.
Khamenei said Iran had no intention of normalising ties with the United States.
“The American government is against an independent Iran ... They have problems with the existence of Islamic Republic of Iran...Most of our problems with them cannot be resolved,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
Khamenei’s hardline loyalists, drawn from among Islamists and the Revolutionary Guards, fear that normalisation of ties with the United States might weaken their position.
“America is a terrorist country and backs terrorism ... therefore, we cannot normalise ties with such country,” he said.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alison Williams and Angus MacSwan