TEHRAN — Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Sunday against undermining negotiators engaged in talks with the West, a message directed apparently at hard-liners who have criticized Iran’s diplomacy over its nuclear program.
The remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were his latest show of support for President Hassan Rouhani’s policy of outreach to the West. They come ahead of a round of talks set for Thursday in Geneva.
Diplomats ‘‘are on a difficult mission and nobody should weaken those who are on assignment,’’ the official IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, as telling a group of students.
‘‘Nobody should consider our negotiators as compromise-seekers,’’ Khamenei said. Iranian officials maintain the country will not concede what it considers to be its fundamental right to nuclear activity.
Hard-liners have accused diplomats of being overly optimistic and keeping details of the talks secret.
Khamenei said the talks with world powers, five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, will be limited to the nuclear issue.
Khamenei criticized Washington for repeating its threats against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
‘‘On one hand, the Americans smile and show interest in talks but on the other hand they immediately say all options are on the table,’’ he was quoted as saying by state TV.
Both the United States and Israel have not ruled out a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
In an apparent warning to Iran, Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Sunday tried to reassure America’s Arab friends that the United States will not allow them to be attacked ‘‘from outside,’’ in an apparent warning to Iran.
‘‘The United States will be there for the defense of our friends and our allies,’’ Kerry said. ‘‘We will not allow those countries to be attacked from outside. We will stand with them.’’
Saudi Arabian officials have watched warily as Obama has opened a tentative rapprochement with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s archrival.
Kerry added that the United States would never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.