A prominent Iranian presidential candidate told The Associated Press on Wednesday he’d be willing to meet with US President Joe Biden if he wins his country’s election next week, but stressed that “America needs to send better and stronger signals” to the Islamic Republic.
Former Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati stressed that an American return to the 2015 nuclear deal was key to any possible relationship amid the wider tensions in the Mideast.
“I think we haven’t seen anything serious from Mr. Biden’s side yet,” Hemmati said. “They first need to go back to the (nuclear deal) that they withdrew from. If we see the process and more confidence is built, then we can talk about that.”
While Hemmati has been at pains to distance himself from outgoing President Hassan Rouhani due to his unpopularity over the nuclear deal’s collapse, he is viewed widely as being the candidate who would carry out similarly moderate policies within the country.
Hemmati told AP that the signal Iranians hoped to see from the US was Washington’s return to the nuclear deal. A visit with Biden also would hinge on it being “within the framework of the general policies of the ruling system,” he added.
“The Americans have sent positive signals but those signals haven’t been strong enough,” he said. “If there are stronger signals, it will affect how optimistic or pessimistic we are.”
Asked about whether Iran would be willing to accept further restrictions, such as on its ballistic missile program to get sanctions relief, Hemmati said Tehran would refuse such an offer.
The comments come as President Joe Biden's administration has been engaged in indirect talks with Iran about reversing former President Donald Trump's exit from the 2015 nuclear deal.
The discussions in Vienna, brokered by European diplomats, have been locked in dispute on which sanctions to lift.
Iran has insisted on a removal of all sanctions, while the Biden administration has insisted that some will remain if they were imposed over other concerns, including human rights and Iran's support for extremist movements.
The fifth round of indirect talks between the US and Iran ended on June 2 and the sixth round is slated to begin this weekend.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week that hurdles remain after the fifth round of talks and did not rule out the possibility of an agreement in the next round.
Secretary of State Blinken warned on Monday that if Iran continues to violate the 2015 nuclear deal, the “breakout time” it needs to amass enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon will shrink to weeks.
On Tuesday, Blinken stressed that "hundreds" of US sanctions will remain on Iran even if the United States rejoins the nuclear deal.