Friday, October 22, 2021

Iran’s Raisi backs nuclear talks, rules out meeting Biden

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TEHRAN: Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi on Monday backed talks between Iran and six world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal but flatly rejected meeting US President Joe Biden, even if Washington removed all sanctions.

In his first news conference since winning Friday’s presidential election, the hardline judge said his foreign policy priority would be improving ties with Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbours.

Raisi, 60, a strident critic of the West, will take over from pragmatist Hassan Rouhani on Aug. 3 as Iran seeks to salvage the tattered nuclear deal and be rid of punishing US sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

“We support the negotiations that guarantee our national interests. … America should immediately return to the deal and fulfil its obligations under the deal,” said Raisi, who is himself under US sanctions.

Negotiations have been underway in Vienna since April to work out how Iran and the United States can both return to compliance with the nuclear pact, which Washington abandoned in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump before reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Raisi said Iran’s foreign policy would not be limited to the nuclear deal, adding that “all US sanctions must be lifted and verified by Tehran”.

Iranian and Western officials alike say Raisi’s rise is unlikely to alter Iran’s negotiating stance in talks to revive the nuclear deal. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all major policy.

Asked if he would meet Biden if those sanctions were lifted, Raisi answered: “No.”

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