I have close friendships with many Sunni scholars: Imam Khamenei

The enemies of the Islamic Republic, the enemies of Islam, the enemies of the regional nations-- who are looting, attacking, and taking advantage of the regional nations and interfering in their affairs--have realized that if the Iranian nation can present itself as a standard by relying on its advances, its scientific progress, its technological progress and its powerful diplomatic presence, other nations will follow it. Therefore, they want to prevent this from happening: they want to foment discord.

Religious differences, like the Shia-Sunni issue and other such issues, have always been used by the enemies of Islamic nations to foment discord. They use this (religious differences) as a weapon to create conflicts, to foment discord. They turn brother against brother; they magnify their differences and brush aside common interests and unifying factors. They magnify insignificant differences; while they undermine all the things that Shia and Sunni have in common: these are the methods that they have always been using. 

The Islamic Republic has stood up to this plot since day one, and the reason being is that we do not take their interests into consideration: this is our belief. Before the Islamic Republic had been established, our brothers, the luminaries of the movement and the luminaries of the revolutionary battle of those days, were making efforts to create unity between Shia and Sunni Muslims. They worked towards unity at a time when the Islamic government and the Islamic Republic were not even discussed. I myself had been exiled to Sistan and Baluchestan Province, and since those days I've been friends with Hanafi Sunni scholars from cities of Sistan and Baluchestan Province: Iranshahr, Chabahar, Saravan and Zahedan. I have been in contact with brothers who are living today, and we remain close friends. While I was living in exile there, governmental organizations would not let us engage in any activities; nonetheless, we decided to do something to exhibit a sign of Shia-Sunni unity in the city. The idea of Unity Week--the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet (sawas), which is on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal according to Sunni scholars and the 17th of Rabi al-Awwal according to Shia scholars--came to mind, and we implemented it in Iranshahr: we celebrated from 12th to the 17th of Rabi al-Awwal. This took deep consideration and was not a recent innovation [Unity week continues to be celebrated today, its message has spread throughout the world]

Ayatollah Khamenei, Oct 17, 2011