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President-elect Raisi backs nuclear talks, rules out meeting Biden

TEHRAN, IRAN - JUNE 21: Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during his first press conference since election win in Tehran, Iran on June 21, 2021. ( Fatemeh Bahrami - Anadolu Agency )
Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during his first press conference since election win in Tehran, Iran on June 21, 2021 [Fatemeh Bahrami - Anadolu Agency]

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, Reuters reported.

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.

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," he said.

READ: US withdraws Patriot missile defence system from Middle East

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 minimise the risk of it developing nuclear weapons potential. Tehran has long denied having any such ambition.

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 – Iran's hardline Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all major policy.

Asked if he would meet US President Joe Biden if those sanctions were lifted, Raisi answered: "No."

READ: Israel says Iran's Raisi extreme, committed to nuclear programme

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