TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's Supreme Leader said Tuesday that western powers will not be able to bring the country to its knees in nuclear talks, his website reported.
"On the nuclear issue, the United States and European colonialist countries gathered and applied their entire efforts to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees but they could not and they will not," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, speaking to a group of clerics.
The remarks were the first by Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, since Iran and major global powers agreed Monday to decide by March 1 what needs to be done and on what kind of schedule. A final agreement is meant to follow four months later.
Khamenei has so far backed the nuclear negotiations. His reference to the future indicates that the extension of the talks would have his approval as well.
Earlier on Monday and in a nationwide broadcast, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani told his nation that it "has achieved a significant victory" and "negotiations will lead to a deal, sooner or later."
Rouhani also said many gaps in the talks "have been eliminated."
But he also vowed that Iran will not relinquish its right to nuclear capability.
"Our nuclear rights should be admitted by the world," Rouhani said. "We will continue the talks."
The United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, have engaged in intensive negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Tehran has denied its nuclear research has any sort of military dimension, saying it is focused on peaceful uses like power generation and medical treatments.