The last time Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led Friday prayers at Tehran's Mosalla mosque was in February 2012, on the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution and at a time of crisis over the Iran nuclear issue.
The day Iran retaliated against the United States by hitting their sites in Iraq was a “day of god”, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday.
Iran's supreme leader has started his sermon ahead of the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran on Friday, after a traumatic month in which the country had appeared on the brink of war with the US and accidentally downed a Ukrainian passenger jet.
The last time Khamenei led Friday prayers at Tehran's Mosalla mosque was in February 2012, on the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution and at a time of crisis over the Iran nuclear issue.
"The plane crash was a bitter accident, it burned through our heart," Khamenei said in his address punctuated by cries of "Death to America" from the congregation.
"But some tried to... portray it in a way to forget the great martyrdom and sacrifice" of Major General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the foreign operations arm of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards who was assassinated in Baghdad on January 3.
"Enemies had tried to use plane tragedy"
Khamenei said Iran's enemies had tried to use the plane tragedy to undermine the Islamic republic.
"Our enemies were as happy about the plane crash as we were sad," he said.
"The spokesmen of the vicious American government keep repeating that we stand with the people of Iran. You're lying," Khamenei said.
He also slammed Britain, France and Germany, which on Tuesday decided to trigger a dispute mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, following US threats to impose tariffs on European cars.
"It has been proven now, after about a year, that they are, in the true sense of the word, America's lackeys," he said.
Trump's response to Khamenei
US President Donald Trump later warned Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to be "very careful with his words."
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. Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2020
According to Trump, Khamenei's blistering speech, in which he attacked the United States and described Britain, France and Germany as "America's lackey's," was a mistake.
The animosity between Washington and Tehran has soared since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed biting sanctions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday urged a "de-escalation" of the tensions and an end to the "constant threats".
The plane tragedy "is a very serious red flag and signal to start working on de-escalation and not on constant threats and combat aviation flights in this region", Lavrov said.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday he had met his Canadian counterpart Francois-Philippe Champagne in Oman to discuss cooperation among nations affected by the disaster.
The Boeing 737 was carrying 63 Canadians among other nationalities when it was shot down.
"Politicisation of this tragedy must be rejected. Focus on victims' families," Zarif tweeted.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Iran to hand the plane's black boxes to France, saying it has one of the few laboratories capable of properly examining them.
In June 2019, Iran and the United States had also appeared to be on the brink of direct military confrontation after Tehran shot down a US drone it said had violated its airspace.
Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes at the last minute.
President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday that Iran was "working daily to prevent military confrontation or war", and maintained that a dialogue with the world was still "possible".
Protests against Ukraine plane downing
The air disaster triggered scattered protests in Tehran and other cities, but they appeared smaller than nationwide demonstrations in November in which Amnesty International said at least 300 people died.
On Friday, anti-riot police staged a massive deployment in Tehran, an AFP correspondent said.
Khamenei said the protesters were unrepresentative of the Iranian people, who had turned out in their hundreds of thousands in what he called a "million-strong crowd" for Soleimani's funeral.
Praising the slain general, Khamenei said his actions beyond Iran's borders were in the service of the "security" of the nation and that the people support "resistance" against its enemies.
It was people like Soleimani, not the protesters, who had devoted their lives to Iran, Khamenei told thousands of worshippers who crammed into the mosque and spilled into the snowy streets outside.