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Rouhani: Iran ‘very happy’ Trump leaving

TEHRAN: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets the family of slain Iranian top general Qasem Soleimani yesterday. – AFP

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday that Iran was “very happy” over the looming departure from office of US counterpart Donald Trump, who led a campaign of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic republic. President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated Trump at the ballot box in November, has signaled a willingness to return to diplomacy with Iran after four tense years under the outgoing president.

“Some say you are overexcited by the advent of Mr Biden. No, we are not, but we are very happy to see Trump leave,” he said in televised comments at a cabinet meeting. “Thank God, these are his final days,” Rouhani added, calling Trump a “tyrant”, “the most unruly, lawless president” and a “terrorist and murderer”.

The Electoral College confirmed Biden as the next US president on Monday even as the incumbent continues to refuse to accept defeat. The formal handover of power will take place on Jan 20 when Biden is sworn in. Tensions between Tehran and Washington soared during Trump’s presidency as his administration sought to bring Israel and the Gulf Arab states closer together with a hard line against Iran.

In 2018, Trump pulled Washington out of a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposed punishing unilateral sanctions. This January, Trump ordered an air strike near Baghdad airport which killed senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and drew retaliatory Iranian strikes targeting US troops in Iraq. Trump “creates obstacles for us purchasing (COVID-19) vaccines, (that is) how much this person is bereft of all ethical and human principles,” Rouhani said.

Iran is the Middle Eastern country hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic with 52,670 deaths from more than 1.1 million cases, according to official figures. Vaccines and other humanitarian goods are supposed to be exempt from US sanctions but in practice few if any banks are willing to risk processing Iranian transactions for fear of incurring heavy penalties in the US courts.

Since Biden’s victory, Rouhani’s government has repeatedly signaled its openness to the incoming US administration, although Iran’s supreme leader has cautioned against hopes of an opening with the West. Rouhani said the outcome of the US election showed the American people’s desire for a “law-abiding” president and called on the Biden administration to live up to the expectation. “If it wants to be on the correct path, it’s there, and if it wants the wrong one, it’s also there,” he said.

Later yesterday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said US “enmities” towards Iran will not cease with the looming departure from office of Trump. He reiterated his position that Iran should bolster itself to “nullify” sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, but should “not delay” in the event they can be lifted.

“You witnessed what Trump’s America and Obama’s America did to you,” he was quoted as saying on his official website. “Enmities are not limited to Trump’s America and will not end just because he has left office,” Khamenei added, addressing the family of Soleimani. “Do not trust the enemy, this is my explicit advice.”

Tensions between Tehran and Washington soared during Trump’s presidency, especially after 2018, when he pulled Washington out of a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed punishing unilateral sanctions. Khamenei has on previous occasions cautioned against hopes of an opening with the West. Khamenei underlined that if sanctions “can be lifted, we should not delay it for even an hour.”

But he warned: “Do not rely on (others’) promises to solve the people’s problems (and) do not forget enmities. I will support the country’s authorities on the condition that they remain true to the nation’s goals.” Khamenei’s meeting with the slain general’s family was his first public engagement since an official close to his office moved to squash rumors about his health last week. – AFP

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