Iran President Raisi says lifting of sanctions 'pursued with vigour'

In an interview marking his first 100 days in office, Iranian leader promises economic stability

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi says he believes a nuclear deal is within reach 'if the US government gives up its campaign of maximum pressure'. EPA
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Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi promised to address the country's economic crisis in an interview marking his first 100 days in office.

Mr Raisi said his government was focused on having crippling US sanctions removed. He said the lifting of sanctions "is being pursued with vigour".

The interview on Sunday evening came days after the conclusion of the latest round of nuclear talks between Europe, the US and Iran.

Negotiations in Vienna resumed last Monday after Iran had paused talks, following Mr Raisi's election in June. However, talks over the course of last week did not conclude with optimism, with the EU and US saying the new hardline government was making demands that could not be met.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also warned Iran that time was running out for negotiations.

A few hours before Mr Raisi's speech, a senior Iranian diplomat rejected the EU and US statements, saying the roadblock to an agreement came from US reluctance to lift sanctions on Tehran.

“It is now clear that Washington's reluctance to give up sanctions altogether is the main challenge to the progress of the talks,” the diplomat told Tasnim news.

“We believe that a deal is within reach if the US government gives up its campaign of maximum pressure and the European parties show serious flexibility and political will in the talks.”

Nuclear talks are expected to begin late this week or at the weekend, according to Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh. He also told reporters on Monday that all the proposals Iran presented at the last round of talks were subject to negotiation.

Iran has been mired in economic problems since the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear accord and reinstated sanctions. The sanctions, along with years of corruption and mismanagement, have led to a dire crisis for Tehran.

In his interview, Mr Raisi listed inflation, high prices and tax evasion as among the top challenges facing his administration and said “the government is doing everything to achieve economic stability and a predictable market".

He also addressed the coronavirus situation. Iran has been one of the countries hardest-hit by Covid-19 in the region. More than 130,000 Iranians have so far died from the virus, a result of a slow vaccination programme and problems in imposing lockdowns in the country, largely because of its struggling economy.

'People should raise their voices'

Since Mr Raisi took over power in August, Iran has also faced widespread protests over the country's water crisis.

Early on in his presidency, amid a series of protests in the Khuzestan region, Mr Raisi promised to address the lack of water. However, little has been done since then to tackle the issue.

Over the past two weeks, citizens of Isfahan took to the streets to protest against severe water shortages and demand the revival of the Zayandeh Rud river, which the government diverted to factories.

The protests were eventually put down through a brutal operation by government security forces.

Although Mr Raisi did not directly mention the continuing crisis, he told state TV that the people should feel comfortable raising their voices for officials to hear. Isfahan's water protests have led to about 70 arrests, human rights groups say.

Updated: December 06, 2021, 2:11 PM