A hardline senior Iranian cleric ruled out claims that the sanctions against Tehran are meant to force it to return to the negotiation table, insisting that Iran has never left the negotiations on its nuclear programme. Comments by Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami during Friday Prayers in Tehran came a few days after the 27-member European Union banned imports of Iranian natural gas and imposed other restrictions on trade and financial dealings. Khatami did not comment on recent comments by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she talked about the success of widely-publicised oil sanctions against Tehran, saying the sanctions have hurt Iran economically without damaging the world's oil supply. Iranian officials have insisted that sanctions have not played a significant role in a precipitous decline of the country's currency. Iran's currency lost nearly 40 percent of its value earlier this month. Meanwhile, members of pro-government Basij militia, plainclothes paramilitary forces under the command of the Revolutionary Guards, staged a rally after Friday Prayers in central Tehran, denouncing an American-made video ridiculing Islam's Prophet Mohammed. "We consider the US government and international Zionism responsible for this evil deed," a protest leader was reported as saying.