The speech by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to remove a main obstacle to formal approval of the agreement in Iran.
TEHRAN, Iran — Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, voiced support Saturday for his country’s nuclear deal with world powers while emphasizing that the agreement did not signal an end to Iran’s hostility toward the United States and its allies, especially Israel.
“Their actions in the region are 180 degrees different from ours,” he said, while also praising Iran’s annual anti-Israel rally, known in Tehran as Quds Day, and the slogans of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
Speaking after a special prayer marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Khamenei portrayed the nuclear agreement as a victory for Iran, not least because it does not require the country to completely stop enriching uranium, as some in the West had wanted. The speech appeared to remove a main obstacle to formal approval of the agreement in Iran.
“After 12 years of struggling with the Islamic republic, the result is that they have to bear the turning of thousands of centrifuges in the country,” Khamenei said, referring to the United States and its five negotiating partners.
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Though analysts said his positive portrayal of the agreement would probably quiet hard-line critics in Iran, it also seemed likely to become fodder for critics in the United States, complicating President Obama’s efforts to sell the deal to Congress and the American people.
The agreement, which in its final form runs to 159 pages, was reached Tuesday after 20 months of negotiations between Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States. It is intended to significantly limit Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons for more than a decade in return for lifting international sanctions.
Obama has made the agreement a benchmark of his presidency. It is opposed by Republicans, some Democrats, and Israel and Saudi Arabia, two of the United States’ most significant allies in the region.
They have denounced it as a diplomatic mistake that will strengthen the economic and military power of a nation that aggressively threatens its neighbors, engages in and supports hostage-taking and terrorism, and is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, deal or no deal.
Khamenei portrayed the deal as an acceptance by the West of Iran’s commitment to go ahead with a nuclear program, which its leaders have insisted was being pursued solely for peaceful purposes.
The speech stopped short of a flat-out endorsement of the agreement, but because it did not include any criticism of it the deal, analysts said it would probably speed the acceptance of the agreement by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and Parliament.
At the same time, Khamenei made clear that a single agreement does not mean Iran’s relationship with the United States will change, and he promised to continue support for regional allies, including President Bashar Assad of Syria and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah movement.
Under the agreement, Iran is forced to give up large parts of its nuclear program and accept inspections, even of military sites. The number of its uranium-enrichment centrifuges will be cut by two-thirds. Iran’s leaders say that what matters is Western acceptance that Iran will continue to have a nuclear program and that when the agreement ends in 2025, Iran will be able to enrich uranium and plutonium without limits.
A draft resolution canceling sanctions against Iran and formalizing the steps that Iran is expected to take is to be presented at the United Nations Security Council on Monday. The five permanent members of the council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran along with Germany.
Several leading members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, have urged Obama not to submit the agreement to the Security Council until Congress has first voted for its approval or disapproval.
Critics say that by restoring Iran’s potential access to about $100 billion in frozen funds around the world, the agreement will free the country to finance an expanded campaign of aggression in the Middle East.