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The sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States are a “criminal act” against the country, Iranian’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday, according to state TV. 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

“These sanctions are criminal act … but we can turn it to an opportunity by distancing Iran’s economy from being dependent on oil exports,” said Khamenei.

“We should be strong to prevent any war against the county. Being weak will encourage our enemies to attack Iran,” Khamenei, Iran’s top authority, said according to state news agency IRNA.

The Islamic Republic has vowed to increase its military strength despite mounting pressure from Western countries to curtail its military capabilities, including its ballistic missile program. 

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have spiked since 2018 when U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 pact between Iran and world powers under which Tehran accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions. 

“Since the revolution their aim was to stop us from having a strong military and a strong air force … but look at us now. We even build planes. We have transformed their pressure to opportunity,” Khamenei said, according to state TV. 

Iran is marking the 41st anniversary of the Islamic revolution, which toppled the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. 

Washington has reimposed crippling sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force Iran to negotiate to reach a wider deal.

Iran and the United States stormed to the edge of a war in early January when Tehran’s most prominent general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike on his convoy in Baghdad. 

REUTERS

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