Iran’s Supreme Leader, in his first sermon in eight years, said yesterday that Britain and other European states who were party to a nuclear pact were “American lackeys” who “cannot be trusted”. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told thousands of worshippers gathered in Tehran that the UK, France and Germany were “weak”, after the co-signatories to the 2015 accord triggered a formal dispute mechanism in the agreement, which could lead to UN sanctions being reimposed. Iran has gradually scaled back its commitments under the pact in retaliation to US’s withdrawal in 2018 and its reimposition of sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy. “I told you after US withdrawal that the E3 are just paying lip service, and telling lies,” he said. “I said I don’t trust them. Now you see they’re just pawns of the US. They’re trying to bring Iran to its knees. US, which was your master, failed to do so, let alone you tiny ones.” Donald Trump responded on Twitter on Friday night, telling Khamenei to be “very careful with his words”. Iranians shout slogans against the government after a vigil held for the victims of the airplane of Ukrainian International Airlines Credit: Anadolu “The so-called ‘Supreme Leader’ of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe,” Trump said. “Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!” Trump went on to urge Iran leaders to “abandon terror” and “Make Iran Great Again”. The US has threatened to impose a 25 percent tariff on imports of European cars if EU governments continue to back the nuclear deal, according to German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Khamenei, who has held the country’s top office since 1989 and has the final say on all major decisions, addressed the nation following the US killing of celebrated Revolutionary Guard general Qassim Soleimani. Leading Friday prayers in the capital, which the ayatollah last did in 2012, is a symbolically significant act usually reserved for times when Iran’s highest authority wishes to deliver an important message. Striking a defiant tone, he said Mr Trump was a “clown” who pretended to support the Iranian people but would push a poisonous dagger into their backs. He also accused Iran’s “enemies”, a term that usually refers to Washington and its allies, of trying to use Iran’s accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner to overshadow a public show of grief following the death of Soleimani. He called the accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner a “bitter” tragedy on Friday but said it should not overshadow the “sacrifice” of a top commander killed in a US drone strike. “The plane crash was a bitter accident, it burned through our heart,” Khamenei said. “But some tried to… portray it in a way to forget the great martyrdom and sacrifice” of Major General Soleimani, the head of the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. “Our enemies were as happy about the plane crash as we were sad … happy that they found something to question the Guards, the armed forces, the system.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leading the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran. Credit: AFP Iran admitted last week it accidentally downed a Ukrainian airliner when it was high alert after strikes against US targets in Iraq in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing. The tragedy killed 176 people, most of them Iranians and Canadians. Many Iranians in exile noted that Khameini did not offer any condolences to the victims of the crash, which they said showed a lack of respect. Praising Soleimani, Khamenei said his actions beyond Iran’s borders were in the service of the “security” of the nation and that the people are in favour of “firmness” and “resistance” in the face of enemies. “The few hundred who insulted the picture of General Soleimani, are they the people of Iran? Or this million-strong crowd in the streets?” he said in an apparent reference to the reported tearing down of a portrait of the dead commander by protesters in Tehran a few days after hundreds of thousands turned out for his funeral.