By Jamie Crawford
They may have been directed to a domestic audience, but some offensive remarks from Iran's supreme leader drew heated responses from senior officials in the Obama administration.
At issue were remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to a gathering of senior military officials in Tehran earlier this week in which he said Israeli officials "cannot be even called humans," and referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "the rabid dog of the region."
"Well, obviously we disagree with it profoundly," Secretary of State John Kerry said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.
"It's inflammatory and it's unnecessary, and I think at this moment, when we are trying to negotiate and figure out what can and can't be achieved, the last thing we need are names back and forth," Kerry said.
In an interview on CNN's New Day on Thursday, Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, called Khamenei's comments "abhorrent."
The comments from the supreme leader came as negotiators from Iran, Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council, known as the P5+1, meet in Geneva to try and narrow outstanding differences and come to an agreement on Iran's disputed nuclear program.
While the Western powers work toward an agreement that would ultimately roll back an Iranian march toward a nuclear weapon, Tehran is looking for concessions to the economic sanctions that are strangling its economy.
With negotiations continuing into the evening hours in Geneva on Thursday, the discussions have yet to yield an agreement between all sides of the talks.
A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is leading the talks, told CNN discussions were ongoing between Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
"There will almost certainly not be any deal today as Ashton and Zarif will be going back into negotiations," Michael Mann, the spokesman for Ashton, told CNN.
He went on to say the talks were "substantial and detailed," and were "seeking further progress."