Iran’s hardline elected president rules out meeting Biden, who is open to re-establishing ties with Saudi Arabia

Iran's hardline elected president rules out meeting Biden, who is open to re-establishing ties with Saudi Arabia

Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi ruled out a meeting with US President Joe Biden on Monday but said there were “no obstacles” to resuming diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, the Sunni arch-rival of Shia Iran. which has been broken for five years. Raisi added that he will not allow nuclear negotiations for the sake of negotiations, during his first press conference since winning the election last week.

Raisi, 60, won Friday’s election, with more than half of voters staying out after many political heavyweights were barred from participating and an economic crisis, triggered by US sanctions, has ravaged the country.

Raisi, an ultra-conservative cleric who heads Iran’s judiciary, will replace moderate President Hassan Rouhani in August — whose milestone in 2015 was a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — in August.

“All negotiations that guarantee national interests will certainly be supported, but … we will not allow negotiations to be for the sake of negotiations,” Raisi said of the nuclear talks.

“Every meeting must yield results… for the Iranian nation,” he added.

In the 2015 agreement, Iran accepted restrictions on its nuclear capabilities in exchange for sanctions easing, but former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew three years later and stepped up sanctions, forcing the Islamic republic to withdraw from its nuclear power. obligations.

Trump’s successor, Biden, has indicated a willingness to return to the deal, and state parties — including Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have recently negotiated its revival in Vienna.

EU negotiator Enrique Mora said on Sunday those involved in the talks were “closer” to saving the Iran nuclear deal, but bottlenecks remain.

Meeting ‘No’ to Biden

Raisi, an austere figure from the Shia Muslim clerical establishment, smiled and raised his hands as he arrived for Monday’s press conference.

Raisi said he has no plans to meet Biden.

“No,” was his flat response to a question from a US media outlet if he would meet with them in the event that the talks lead to the US lifting sanctions against Iran, and to try and resolve the issues between the two arch-enemies. to resolve”. .

Raisi also said his government is open to re-establishing ties with Iran’s regional enemy, Saudi Arabia.

“There are no obstacles on the part of Iran to reopen embassies… there are no obstacles to ties with Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia were severed in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following the execution of a respected Shia cleric by the kingdom.

The two sides have been engaged in talks organized in Baghdad since April to improve relations.

Raisi, who is subject to US sanctions for the 1988 executions of political prisoners, has denied any involvement in the murders in the past.

‘Always stand up for human rights’

At Monday’s press conference, Raisi said he has “always” defended human rights.

“Everything I have done in my years of service has always been aimed at defending human rights,” the Iranian president-elect said, accusing the West of violating human rights.

Raisi, whose black turban signifies a direct lineage from the prophet Mohammed of Islam, is seen as the 81-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate political power in Iran.

His victory was widely anticipated after the Guardian Council, made up of 12 clerics and lawyers, approved just seven candidates, all men, from a field of nearly 600 hopeful candidates.

Three of those vetted candidates dropped out two days before the vote.

Raisi said there was a “huge” turnout in Friday’s election.

“This meaningful presence of the people, their mass presence, came about despite the coronavirus situation, despite the many enmities and psychological warfare of the enemies of the Iranian nation,” he said.

Turnout reached 48.8 percent, a record low for a presidential poll since Iran’s 1979 revolution ousted the US-backed monarchy.

Participation was expected to be low in a country where many have been demoralized by years of painful economic crisis triggered by a crippling US sanctions regime and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

( Jowharwith AFP)