Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Iranian president-elect Ebrahim Raisi conducts his first news conference since his election win, in Tehran, on June 21, 2021.

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

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 U.S. President Joe Biden, even if Washington removed all sanctions.

In his first news conference since he was elected on Friday, the hardline cleric said his foreign policy priority would be improving ties with Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbours, while calling on Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia to immediately halt its intervention in Yemen.

Mr. 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 U.S. sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Story continues below advertisement

“We support the negotiations that guarantee our national interests. … America should immediately return to the deal and fulfill its obligations under the deal,” he said.

Negotiations have been under way 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.

Iran has subsequently breached the deal’s limits on enrichment of uranium, designed to minimize the risk of it developing nuclear weapons potential. Tehran has long denied having any such ambition.

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

Iranian and Western officials alike say Mr. Raisi’s rise is unlikely to alter Iran’s negotiating position 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 Mr. Biden if those sanctions were lifted, Mr. Raisi answered: “No.”

WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE

The White House played down Mr. Raisi’s influence, saying no meeting was planned and that Mr. Khamenei was the real decision maker in Tehran.

Story continues below advertisement

“We don’t currently have any diplomatic relations with Iran or any plans to meet at the leader level,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “Our view is that the decision maker here is the supreme leader.”

Mr. Raisi is under U.S. sanctions over a past that includes what the United States and human-rights groups say was his involvement in the extrajudicial killing of thousands of political prisoners in the Islamic Republic in 1988.

When asked about human-rights groups’ allegations that he was involved in the killings, he said: “If a judge, a prosecutor has defended the security of the people, he should be praised.”

“I am proud to have defended human rights in every position I have held so far,” he said.

The White House said it would keep human rights on the table after negotiations on the nuclear deal. Ms. Psaki declined to predict when or if a deal would be reached, adding that officials are “looking forward to seeing where that goes.”

Gulf Arab states have said it would be dangerous to separate the nuclear pact from Iran’s missile program and “destabilizing” behaviour in the Middle East, where Tehran and Riyadh have fought decades of proxy wars, in countries from Yemen to Iraq.

Story continues below advertisement

Echoing Mr. Khamenei’s stance, Mr. Raisi said Iran’s “regional activities and ballistic missile program” were non-negotiable.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 after Iran-backed Houthi forces drove its government out of the capital, Sanaa. The conflict has been largely stalemated for several years.

“They [the United States] did not comply with the previous agreement. How do they want to enter into new discussions?” Mr. Raisi said.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran, which severed ties in 2016, began direct talks in Iraq in April aimed at containing tensions. “The reopening of the Saudi Embassy is not a problem for Iran,” Mr. Raisi said.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies