Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi signalled Monday that he would not meet with US President Joe Biden under any circumstances, including if Washington met all of Tehran’s demands in the ongoing Vienna talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric and close ally of Iran’s supreme leader, was speaking at his first press conference since winning Friday’s presidential election. He will take over from President Hassan Rouhani in early August.
Asked if he would be willing to meet with Biden to resolve the disputes between the US and Iran if Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran and met Iran’s demands first, Raisi answered with a resounding “no.”
The US and Iran have engaged in indirect talks in Vienna since April to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which Washington withdrew from under former President Donald Trump in 2018.
Raisi urged Washington to return to the deal and lift all sanctions on Iran. “All sanctions imposed on Iran must be lifted and verified by Tehran,” he said.
Raisi reiterated Iran’s position that its ballistic missile program and support of regional militias are “non-negotiable.”
Asked about his role in Iran’s mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, Raisi described himself as a “defender of human rights.”
“If a prosecutor defends the rights of the people and the security of society, he should be commended and encouraged. I am proud to have defended security wherever I was as a prosecutor,” Raisi, who was Tehran’s deputy prosecutor in 1988, said.
Rights groups say Raisi was a leading member of what came to be known as the “death committee,” a group of Iranian judiciary and intelligence officials put together by then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini to oversee the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.
Rights groups estimate that as many as 5,000 people were executed.
Raisi was sanctioned by the US in 2019 for human rights abuses, including the 1988 executions.
Rights group Amnesty International said on Saturday Raisi must be investigated for crimes against humanity.