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Iran President-Elect Won't Meet Biden  06/21 06:14


   DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iran's president-elect said Monday he 
wouldn't meet with President Joe Biden nor negotiate over Tehran's ballistic 
missile program and its support of regional militias, sticking to a hard-line 
position following his landslide victory in last week's election.

   Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi also described himself as a "defender of human 
rights" when asked about his involvement in the 1988 mass execution of some 
5,000 people. It marked the first time he's been put on the spot on live 
television over that dark moment in Iranian history at the end of the Iran-Iraq 

   "The U.S. is obliged to lift all oppressive sanctions against Iran," Raisi 
said at the news conference.

   Raisi sat in front of a sea of microphones, most from Iran and countries 
home to militias supported by Tehran. He looked nervous at the beginning of 
comments but slowly loosened up over the hourlong news conference.

   Asked about Iran's ballistic missile program and its support of regional 
militias, Raisi described the issues as "non-negotiable."

   Tehran's fleet of attack aircraft date largely back to before the 1979 
Islamic Revolution, forcing Iran to instead invest in missiles as a hedge 
against its regional Arab neighbors, who have purchased billions of dollars in 
American military hardware over the years. Iran also relies on militias like 
Yemen's Houthis and Lebanon's Hezbollah to counterbalance against enemies like 
Saudi Arabia and Israel, respectively.

   On meeting Biden, Raisi simply answered: "No." His moderate competitor in 
the election, Abdolnasser Hemmati, had suggested during campaigning that he'd 
be potentially willing to meet Biden.

   The White House did not immediately respond to Raisi's statements Monday.

   Raisi, a protg of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been 
sanctioned by the U.S. in part over his involvement in the mass executions. His 
victory in the balloting last Friday came amid the lowest turnout in the 
Islamic Republic's history. Millions of Iranians stayed home in defiance of a 
vote they saw as tipped in Raisi's favor.

   Of those who did vote, 3.7 million people either accidentally or 
intentionally voided their ballots, far beyond the amount seen in previous 
elections and suggesting some wanted none of the four candidates. In official 
results, Raisi won 17.9 million votes overall, nearly 62% of the total 28.9 
million cast.

   Raisi's election puts hard-liners firmly in control across the government as 
negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit 
Iran's nuclear program, at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at 60% its 
highest levels ever, though still short of weapons-grade levels. 
Representatives of the world powers party to the deal returned to their 
capitals for consultations following the latest round of negotiations on Sunday.

   Top diplomats from nations involved in the talks said that further progress 
had been made Sunday between Iran and global powers to try to restore a 
landmark 2015 agreement to contain Iranian nuclear development that was 
abandoned by the Trump administration. They said it was now up to the 
governments involved in the negotiations to make political decisions.

   Raisi's election victory has raised concerns that it could complicate a 
possible return to the nuclear agreement.

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