Khamenei plays down protests, says Iran foes exploiting plane tragedy

AFP
January 18, 2020

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader said Friday that demonstrations at home over its accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner were unrepresentative of the Iranian people and accused the...

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TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader said Friday that demonstrations at home over its accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner were unrepresentative of the Iranian people and accused the country´s enemies of exploiting it for propaganda purposes. Leading the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran for the first time since 2012, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the January 8 downing was a “bitter” tragedy but should not be allowed to overshadow the “sacrifice” of one of Iran´s most storied commanders, assassinated in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

The Revolutionary Guards can take their fight beyond Iran’s borders, the supreme leader said on Friday, responding to the U.S. killing of a top general and to unrest at home over the accidental downing of an airliner.

“Resistance must continue until the region is completely freed from the enemy’s tyranny,” Khamenei said, in a reference to the United States that renewed his call for U.S. troops to leave neighboring Iraq and the wider Middle East.

“The plane crash was a bitter accident, it burned through our heart,” Khamenei said in an address punctuated by cries of “Death to America” from the congregation. “But some tried to... portray it in a way to forget the great martyrdom and sacrifice” of Major General Qasem Soleimani, the assassinated head of the foreign operations arm of Iran´s elite Revolutionary Guards. Khamenei said Iran´s enemies had seized on the plane tragedy in a bid to undermine the Islamic republic. “Our enemies were as happy about the plane crash as we were sad ... happy that they found something to question the Guards, the armed forces, the system,” he said.

Khamenei slams ‘cowardly’ European governments: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday accused the governments of Britain, France and Germany of being “American lackeys” in the face of US pressure over the nuclear accord. The United States has threatened to impose a 25 percent tariff on imports of European cars if European Union governments continue to back the nuclear deal, according to German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The 2015 agreement was struck in Vienna between Iran and France, Britain, Germany, the United States, China and Russia. But it has threatened to collapse since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States in 2018, before reimposing a series of intensifying economic sanctions on Iran. During a sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran, Khamenei accused the “wicked” governments of Britain, France and Germany of “threatening Iran to take the nuclear issue to the (UN) Security Council. Iran´s top leader said the launch of the dispute mechanism was “done to overshadow” the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad, and Iran´s subsequent retaliation. Last week, Iran fired a volley of missiles at US troops stationed in Iraqi military bases, wounding 11 American soldiers. Khamenei accused the European governments of historic animosity towards Iran. “These three countries are the ones that during the (Iran-Iraq war) helped Saddam Hussein as much as they could,” he said, referring to the former Iraqi dictator and Iran´s erstwhile foe. “It has been proven now, after about a year, that they are, in the true sense of the word, America´s lackeys, and these cowardly governments are waiting for the Iranian nation to surrender,” he said.



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