Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has criticized President Hassan Rohani for saying his rapprochement policy toward the West had caused the threat of war to diminish.
Khamenei's comments at an April 30 meeting with workers from across the country come amid Iran's intensifying presidential election campaign, in which pragmatist Rohani is seeking a second term.
"We hear, and we have heard it before, some saying: 'When we took things in our hands, we could save the country from war.' No. This is not true," Khamenei said during the meeting, which was held on the eve of International Workers' Day.
"What protected this country during all these years against aggression, and the enemy's intrusion, is the presence of the people," he added.
Rohani has championed the landmark 2015 deal with world powers in which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in return for an easing of international sanctions.
A standoff between Rohani's and Khamenei's allies, who criticized the nuclear deal, has escalated in recent months ahead of the May 19 election.
Hard-liners criticize Rohani's economic record, saying a detente with the West and nuclear concessions had yet to yield economic benefits for Iran.
Rohani on April 30 called the nuclear deal a "national achievement."
"We should make use of its advantages. But some have started a fight over it," he said.
In a televised debate a day earlier, Rohani warned Iranians that a vote for his hard-line rivals could bring greater authoritarianism to the country.
"Iranians will prove to the world in the May 19 election that the era of violence, extremism, and pressures in our country is over and Iran is pursuing the path of reason," he said.
Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line cleric and close Khamenei ally, is considered Rohani’s main election rival, along with Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
Raisi joined those who have attacked Rohani over the state of the country's economy when he criticized the president on this issue during a rally in a packed Tehran stadium on April 29.
"Today, 30 percent of our young people are out of jobs and unemployment is over 12 percent," Raisi said. "Does this situation have to continue? Do we have to wait for foreigners to fix our problems?"
Raisi said the country was facing “an unacceptable situation because of weak management."
Qalibaf also attacked Rohani’s economic management during a televised debate on April 28, which featured all six approved presidential candidates.
A debate scheduled for May 5 will focus on political issues, while a May 12 event will focus on the economy.