Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Monday the death of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would be a serious defeat for United States policy in the Middle East, state-run radio reported. "The Americans have been defeated in Palestine since the butcher of the Palestinians, who intended to destroy the Palestinian Intifada, has come to his end," the radio quoted Khamenei as saying to a group of visitors. On Thursday Iran's hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he hoped for the death of Sharon. Khamenei also sent a message to pilgrims in Islam's holiest city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. "The US Middle East policy faced major obstacles ... The failure of the policy has turned it into a weapon against its designers," Khamenei said. "Today on the one hand there is Iraq, and on the other hand Palestine and Lebanon, displaying the weakness and powerlessness of the US and Zionism." "I urge Muslim nations to support and protect Palestinians and Iraqis, as well as backing up peace and stability in Lebanon and Syria," the supreme leader added. Iran and the US have regularly clashed over issues ranging from the war on terrorism and the Middle East peace process to Iran's controversial nuclear program. Washington charged Tehran with trying to develop nuclear weapons while Iran said its nuclear program had the sole aim of making fuel for atomic reactors that would generate electricity. Iran and the US have not had diplomatic relations since 1979 when militant students stormed the US embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostage for 444 days. President Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a "myth" in December. After global outrage over the comments, he said that Europeans should cede some of their territory for a Jewish state.