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Iran's President-Elect In Favor Of Nuclear Discussion But Shuns Talking To Biden

Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi

Iran's President-elect Ebrahim Raisi says he backs discussions to revive the 2015 deal regulating its nuclear sector but draws the line at holding direct talks with U.S. President Joe Biden.

The 60-year-old Raisi, speaking on June 21 for the first time since he won an election last week, said that even if Washington removed all sanctions against Iran, he has no intention of meeting with Biden.

"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.

"Any meeting must produce a result...for the Iranian nation," he added.

The hard-line conservative, who won nearly 62 percent of the vote in the June 18 election, will take office in early August, replacing Hassan Rohani, who served the maximum two consecutive terms and was a key architect of the nuclear deal, which lifted some international sanctions in exchange for Iran agreeing to put curbs on its nuclear program.

The United States unilaterally withdrew from the pact in 2018 and began reimposing damaging financial sanctions against Iran. In response, Tehran steadily has exceeded limits on its nuclear program spelled out in the deal, prompting the other four signatories to the deal -- Britain, France, Germany, and Russia -- to work with the European Union to bring Washington back into the fold.

While Iran is looking to rid itself of the punishing U.S. sanctions that have crippled its economy, Raisi said that "all U.S. sanctions must be lifted and verified by Tehran."

Still, when asked if he would meet Biden if the sanctions were lifted, Raisi answered: "No."

Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric who headed Iran's judiciary, was one of the judges in 1988 who oversaw a series of speedy trials in which thousands of political prisoners were sentenced to death and executed.

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Human rights organizations say he is guilty of crimes against humanity, and the United States has placed him under sanctions.

Raisi said his foreign policy priority would be improving ties with Iran's Gulf Arab neighbors, and that he was hoping to resume diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, the Sunni-ruled regional rival of Shi'ite Iran, which have been severed for five years.

The two sides began direct talks in Iraq in April aimed at containing tensions and Raisi said in the interview that "the reopening of the Saudi Embassy is not a problem for Iran."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa
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