Friday 17 January 2020 10:20 am

Khamenei says Iran missile strikes were 'slap in face' for US

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a Friday prayers sermon today that Iran’s missile strikes on US military bases in Iraq were a “slap in the face” to the superpower.

Khamanei, giving his first sermon since 2012, added that the country would not bend to pressure despite the US imposing sanctions in the long-running dispute over its nuclear ambitions.

“The fact that Iran has the power to give such a slap to a world power shows the hand of God,” Khamenei said.

Thousands crowded inside a large prayer hall to hear Khamenei’s address today, while the surrounding area was densely packed with people chanting “death to America”.

Iran’s leader also said that US President Donald Trump’s assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani showed Washington’s “terrorist nature”.

Trump ordered the drone strike that killed the second most powerful person in Iran in early January.

Tensions escalated after the assassination, while relations between the countries have been tense since Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

Iran’s retaliatory missile attack was followed by the downing of a Ukraine International Airlines jet, killing 176 people.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards initially denied it was responsible for a missile that shot down the Boeing 737-800, but later admitted that an air defence operator mistakenly blew up the plane.

Khamenei today called the crash a tragedy and said Iran’s “enemies” had used it to distract from the killing of Soleimani.

Soleimani’s funeral attracted huge crowds on Iran’s streets, during which at least 35 mourners died in a stampede.

Trump’s a ‘clown’

Khamenei called Trump a “clown” who would “push a poisonous dagger” into the backs of Iranians during his speech.

He also said the UK and other European nations “cannot be trusted”, but added Tehran would be willing to negotiate with any power except the US.

The UK, Germany and France earlier this week triggered a dispute mechanism in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The European leaders fear Trump’s abandonment of the deal has pushed Iran back towards developing nuclear weapons.

Iran has suspended all limits on production of enriched uranium, which can be used as nuclear reactor fuel and to make nuclear weapons.

It leaves the country dangerously close to having the capability to produce nuclear weapons, City A.M. understands.

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