Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would not step back from its nuclear rights, and his negotiating team had set limits for talks over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

Khamenei took swipes at Israel and France during his speech to tens of thousands of volunteer Basij militiamen in Tehran, broadcast live on Iran’s Press TV.

“Zionist officials cannot be called humans, they are like animals, some of them,” said Khamenei. “The Israeli regime is doomed to failure and annihilation,” he said.

The “Zionist regime” says things that “only bring humiliation on themselves,” he said, adding that it is a regime that “emerged through force, and no phenomenon that has emerged through force has continued to exist – and this regime will not continue to exist either.”

The allegations that Iran poses a threat to the world are the “words of enemies,” he said, referring to some countries, such as the “rabid dog of the region, namely the Zionist regime,” as quoted by Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.

The leader also criticized France, after French President Francois Hollande assured Israel on Sunday that it would continue to oppose an easing of economic sanctions against Iran until it was convinced Tehran had given up any pursuit of nuclear weapons.

French officials, Khamenei said, were “not only succumbing to the United States, but they are kneeling before the Israeli regime.”

Khamenei’s comments about France are “unacceptable” and complicate nuclear negotiations, French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud- Belkacem responded.

Negotiators from Iran and six world powers meet for two days of talks in Geneva for the second time this month after a first round narrowly missed reaching an interim deal due to what diplomats said was Iran’s insistence on its right to enrich uranium and French concerns over an Iranian heavy water reactor.

Brandon Friedman, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University and a researcher at its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, told The Jerusalem Post that Khamenei gave a hard-line speech because “he wants to set the stage for a deal.”

If Iran is going to compromise with the US and the West, then its leadership “needs to reinforce the remaining pillar of ideology: the little Satan, or Israel.”

“As Iran approaches some kind of détente with the West, we can expect its rhetoric on Israel to become harsher,” said Friedman.

Commenting on how much of the Western press did not report some of Khamenei’s harsher remarks, Friedman said it was disappointing that the press seems reluctant to report both images coming out of Iran.

“They prefer the image of a new regime,” he said, “but the fact is [that] to understand the Islamic republic, the supreme authority resides with Khamenei.”

“It seems curious that Khamenei’s denigrating and insulting remarks about Israeli officials went under-reported in the Western media,” Friedman said.

Khamenei also said that “sanctions are not effective,” and the US knows this and that is why they resort to military threats. “They know sanctions are a nonstarter, not effective.”

“Instead of making military threats, you better go improve your dilapidated economy,” he said, adding, “You better do something to prevent a two-week shutdown of the government,” referring to the US government shutdown in October.

“We do insist that we will not step back one iota from our rights,” Khamenei stated.

“We do not intervene in the details of these talks. There are certain redlines and limits. These have to be observed.”

In a likely reference to UN, US and EU sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear activities, Khamenei said: “They intend to ratchet up the pressure on Iran. Iranians will succumb to no one under pressure.

“They should know that the Iranian nation respects all nations of the world, but we will slap aggressors in the face in such a way they will never forget it,” Khamenei said.

After the strong rhetoric Khamenei then went on to show the regime’s softer side.

“We want to have friendly relations with all nations, even the United States. We are not hostile to the American nation. They are like other nations in the world.”

“Death to America,” the militiamen chanted in response, repeating one of the main rallying cries for supporters of the Islamic Republic.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday in a meeting with his Italian counterpart in Rome that Iran is serious and that the world powers need to take a realistic approach and avoid being greedy in their demands, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.

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