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Iran's supreme leader criticizes president over New York trip

Iran’s supreme leader has criticized the country’s president for some of his efforts to improve relations with the United States. At the same time, he expressed support for the general aim of reaching out to the West.

In his first public comments since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attended the United Nations General Assembly, Supreme Leader Ayatolah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday "that some of what happened during the New York trip was not appropriate."

The comments, which were published on Khamenei's website, were widely understood as referring to Rouhani's 15-minute-long telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama, which came at the end of his trip to New York. This was the first direct contact between the presidents of the two countries, which have been estranged since the 1979 Iranian revolution, in which 52 Americans were held hostage in the US embassy in Tehran for more than a year.

Khamenei, who has the final say on all government decisions, also took the opportunity to express his disdain for Washington.

"We are skeptical of Americans and have no trust in them at all. The American government is untrustworthy, arrogant, illogical and a promise-breaker. It's a government captured by the international Zionism network," he said.

At the same time, though, Khamenei expressed support for much of what Rouhani tried to achieve during his trip.

"We support the government's diplomatic moves including the New York trip because we have faith (in them)," he said.

Khamenei's comments appeared to echo comments made by the Revolutionary Guard's chief commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, earlier in the week.

"The respected president, who adopted a powerful and appropriate position in the trip ... would have been better off avoiding the telephone conversation with Obama - in the same way he didn't give time for a meeting with Obama - and left such measures until after practical, verifiable steps by the US government and a test of their good will," Jafari said in comments published on the website of the Tasnim news agency.

pfd/tj (AP, AFP, Reuters)