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Iranian leader: 'Death to America' refers to policies, not the nation

(CNN)"Death to America" just isn't what it used to be.

On Tuesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a speech to university students, to which they responded with shouts of "Death to America!"

That's nothing new in Iran, particularly if the Ayatollah is speaking.

But it's not a common way to refer to a country with which you have just concluded a deal to get international sanctions lifted, perhaps.

And what really was new was the convoluted statement the leader made attempting to redefine the meaning of the slogan.Going back through more than half a century of U.S.-Iranian history, the leader said the slogan was justified and would stay.

But he added this, according to PressTV, the official Iranian broadcaster:"The slogan 'death to America' is backed by reason and wisdom; and it goes without saying that the slogan does not mean death to the American nation; this slogan means death to the U.S.'s policies, death to arrogance."

In his tour of history, Khamenei included an American-backed coup in Iran in 1953 and the spying he said was done from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, which Iranian students and radicals took over in 1979. They held dozens of American Embassy workers hostage for more than a year.

Having completed his explanation, Khamenei announced, according to his official website, that he had proved his point.

"This slogan means death to the policies of the U.S. and arrogant powers," he said, "and this logic is accepted by every nation when explained in clear terms."

Khamenei's comments came on the eve of the 36-year anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy.

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