Ayatollah: Economy can thwart Western sanctions

Iran’s supreme leader on Friday said his country could defeat sanctions from the West by strengthening Iran's economy. 

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comment in a speech about the Persian New Year, Nowruz. He declared the New Year, 1393, as the year of “economy and culture.” 

Instead of waiting for sanctions to be lifted, Khamenei said Iran could improve the economy to “reduce vulnerability.” 

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"If a nation is not strong, the world's extortionists will extort from it, insult it and, if they can, they will trample on it," Khamenei said in his speech, according to the Associated Press. "If a nation doesn't become strong, it will be bullied by others." 

Sanctions the United States and its allies have imposed on Iran have crippled its economy in recent years. The supreme leader said if Iran waits for “the enemy” to remove those sanctions, it will be a road "to hell.” 

Last month, Khamenei announced measures Iran’s economic sector could pursue in an effort to strengthen it. They include promoting the high-tech industry, diversifying Iranian exports and reducing dependence on sales of raw materials, the AP notes.

Khamenei’s message comes a few days after a second round of nuclear negotiations wrapped up with the P5+1 group in Vienna. 

Iran and other world powers, including the U.S., seek to strike a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program by July. The U.S. has maintained existing sanctions against Iran, but is holding off on imposing tougher ones in case a final deal can be reached.