DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that Tehran will not bow to pressure to reduce its defensive power, regional presence and progress in nuclear technology, Iranian state media reported.
“Suggestions to reduce our defensive power so as to appease the enemy are nothing more that naive and ill-advised […]Over time, these flawed proposals have been rebutted, but if they weren’t, Iran would have now faced great threats,” the country’s top political authority said according to state media.
The Islamic Republic, which sees the United States and Israel as its main enemies, is now in the final stages of talks with world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal that would lift sanctions in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.
But Israel and Gulf Arab countries worry that a revived deal will embolden Iran to step up support to allies in conflicts across the Middle East, using funds from an economy newly freed from sanctions.
“Regional presence gives us strategic depth and more power,” Khamenei said.
“Why should we give it up? Scientific progress in the nuclear field is related to our future needs, and if we give that up, will anyone help us in the future?” he added.
Iran on Thursday called on the United States to drop “unacceptable proposals” in the talks, while Russia’s demands for guarantees from Washington have complicated efforts to close an agreement.
Iran and Western-backed Saudi Arabia have been locked in a rivalry that has played out in proxy conflicts across the region, from Yemen to Syria to Iraq.
Iran has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil war, Shi’ite militias in Iraq, Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Michael Georgy, Hugh Lawson, William Maclean)