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Iran’s new president-elect says won’t meet with Biden for nuke deal talks

Ebrahim Raisi speaks at a political rally in Iran. (Hossein Razaqnejad, Wikimedia Commons released)
June 21, 2021

On Monday, Iran’s new president-elect Ebrahim Raisi announced he will not meet with President Joe Biden and reiterated that talks about restarting the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will not include new negotiations on its ballistic missile program or its state sponsorship of terrorism.

Raisi announced his refusal to meet with Biden as a continuation of his hardline stance towards limiting negotiations on restarting the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Associated Press reported.

In comments reported by Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Raisi called for “the U.S. to return to the JCPOA and fulfill its commitment because this is the demand of the Iranian nation.” Raisi also said, “The U.S. government should be sincere towards its commitments while noting that the regional and missile issues are not negotiable.”

Raisi will officially assume office after his inauguration in August, the BBC reported.

Iran’s current president President Hassan Rouhani also said in December that Iran’s ballistic missile program would not be included in new negotiations on the JCPOA.

Raisi’s latest comments come just days after he won the country’s Friday elections and serves as one of his first messages to the world since winning the title of the president-elect.

Raisi currently serves as Iran’s chief jurist and is considered more of a hardliner than past Iranian leaders. In the 1980s, Raisi also served as a member of the prosecution committee, which the Guardian reported was responsible for sending as many as 3,000 accused Iranian criminals and dissidents to be executed in 1988. The prosecuting committee earned the nickname of the “Death Committee” by opponents of the Iranian regime and by some in western media.

Raisi won Iran’s latest election with 62 percent of the vote during a low-turnout election.

The comments from the newly elected Iranian president could overshadow progress on the indirect talks the U.S. has been holding in Vienna, Austria with Iran on reentering the JCPOA. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in 2018 and while Iran has remained a member of the agreement, it has increasingly ignored its commitments to the deal including limits on Uranium stockpiling and enrichment levels.

The BBC reported Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said the months-long Vienna talks had Iran and the other JCPOA members “closer than ever to an agreement”, but that bridging the remaining gap is “not an easy job.”

Naftali Bennett, the newly elected Prime Minister of Israel, told the U.S. and other members of the JCPOA that “Raisi’s election is, I would say, the last chance for world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement, and understand who they are doing business with.”

Fox News reported Bennett went on to say, “A regime of brutal hangmen must never be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction,” adding “Israel’s position will not change on this.”