Iran’s new ultra-conservative president has used his debut on the international stage to deliver a sustained assault on US, denouncing sanctions as “crimes against humanity” and hailing what he called the end of Washington’s hegemony.
“Sanctions are the US new way of war with the nations of the world,” President Ebrahim Raisi told the UN general assembly in a pre-recorded address from Tehran.
Raisi, who is himself under US sanctions over alleged human rights abuses, said sanctions “were crimes against humanity during the coronavirus pandemic”.
He used most of his time to denounce the US, saying that the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the 6 January attack on the Capitol proved that “the US hegemonic system” had no credibility inside or outside the country.
Raisi expressed support for renewed nuclear negotiations but said all parties must stay true to the 2015 nuclear deal, adding that he had no faith in American promises.
Earlier on Tuesday, Iran’s foreign ministry said it would return to the talks in Vienna on reviving the deal within the next few weeks, although western powers remain suspicious of Tehran’s delaying tactics and a lack of specifics.
“Every meeting requires prior coordination and the preparation of an agenda,” the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said, according to the state news agency, Irna. “As previously emphasised, the Vienna talks will resume soon and over the next few weeks.”
Iran suspended the talks in June at the time of Raisi’s election, to give the new administration time to prepare a bargaining agenda and negotiating team. But after six intensive rounds, few expected Iran to take so long to return to Vienna or assemble its new negotiating team.
Intensive efforts by European powers on the sidelines of the UN general assembly this week to persuade Iran to hold a joint meeting with the other signatories in New York to the nuclear deal were rejected by Iran.
Instead, the new foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, will this week meet the five other signatories of the Iran deal – France, the UK, Russia, China and Germany. Liz Truss, the UK foreign secretary, was expected to press the Iranians on the issue of the release of detained British-Iranian dual nationals, but few expect any progress on the issue until the nuclear talks resume.
Russia, normally seen as sympathetic to Iran, has hinted at its concern with Iran’s stalling tactics, and insisted that any resumed talks should not start with a blank piece of paper, but on the basis of what has been previously negotiated.
In a possible sign of tensions within the new government, Iran has yet to announce its chief negotiator for Vienna, let alone a specific date for its return.
The US has offered to lift most economic sanctions on Iran that are linked to the country’s non-compliance with the nuclear deal, referred to as JCPoA, but not those linked to human rights abuses. Iran has said it will come back into compliance with the deal, but only after it is clear that the lifting of sanctions has had a practical impact on the ability of Iran to trade.
Iran is also looking for new guarantees about what would happen if the US was to walk out of the deal again, as it did under Donald Trump in 2018. It wants guarantees that the US would, if in breach of UN security council resolutions, pay compensation.
In a brief reference to Iran, Joe Biden in his speech to the UN general assembly vowed that Washington was seeking “a return to the JCPoA”.
He added: “We are prepared to return to full compliance if Iran does the same.”