Iran's Ayatollah: 'Death to America' doesn't mean 'Death to Americans'

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

Iran's supreme leader says the slogan "Death to America" is not aimed at the American people, but rather American policies.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's website says Tuesday he made the comment while meeting with Iranian students ahead of the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979. Militant students stormed the compound and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

The two countries have had no diplomatic relations since then. However, current President Hassan Rouhani has made efforts to improve relations, including a landmark nuclear agreement reached with world powers this past summer.

Khamenei says the "aim of the slogan is not death to American people. The slogan means death to U.S. policies and arrogance." He says the slogan has "strong support" in Iran.