In a televised talk Sunday, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi only briefly addressed Iran's nuclear issue saying he is keenly pursuing the "lifting of sanctions".
Raisi said Western countries thought his government would not continue the nuclear talks and "had nothing [worthy] to say" but "it has now been proven that we [did]. We presented a text [in the new round of talks] and the matter is being pursued," he said.
In the one-hour program, Raisi spoke about the nuclear issue for less than 2 minutes.
The first round of talks after Raisi took office was held from November 29-December 3 and ended without any progress. The United States and European allies voiced dismay and pessimism, saying Iran reneged on all compromises made during earlier rounds oftalks in Vienna.
He added that his government "does not tie the country's budget and economy" to the issue of nuclear talks and is working towards the "lifting of US sanctions" while making every effort to "neutralize [the impact of] sanctions" through establishment of a special taskforce for the purpose.
The interview announced a day earlier was on the occasion of the first 100 days of his presidency, although that was 20 days ago.
The interviewer referred to Iran's full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) in September as one of Raisi's foreign policy "achievements" and Raisi himself said he has been very active in foreign policy matters with an emphasis on relations with neighboring and regional countries and held "over 100 meetings and phone calls" with leaders of other countries since taking office.
When asked how he himself rated his administration's performance, he spoke about the accelerated pace of Covid-19 vaccination in the past 4 months and blamed the Rouhani government for the slow progress until August. Raisi claimed credit for “over 100 million doses of Covid vaccines" administered in four months, which he said made it possible to reopen “over 100,000 businesses".
Asked why vaccines were not readily available before he took office despite purchase orders having been placed during his predecessor, he said he had contacted officials of other countries personally, ordered the government to provide the cash needed for buying vaccines and supported domestic vaccine developers.
Iran’s vaccination effort until August was slow compared to other countries because Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the purchase of American and British vaccines for political reasons at a time when they were the main products available.
Soon after taking office, in a phone call with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Raisi urged China to deliver Covid vaccines to Iran urgently. Chinese vaccines make up most of vaccines imported.
The state-controlled TV's interviewer described the government's performance in healthcare including vaccination as "brilliant". Critics of the government have alleged that Raisi's administration has been taking credit for vaccines procured by the previous government.
Critics have said the Islamic Republic officials have lied and bluffed their way during the pandemic.
The riddle of the economy
Regarding the economic crisis people face, Raisi said when he took office reserves of basic commodities were troublingly low but his administration has managed to procure basic foodstuff such as wheat to bring the reserves to an acceptable level.
Raisi said his government is monthly paying 10,000 billion rials ($230 million) on average for purchases made by the previous government. He claimed that his government has succeeded in making all necessary payments without borrowing from the central bank which would cause higher inflation. He said inflation has come under control and the rate of its growth is decreasing.
Iran’s former central bank chairman Abdolnasser Hemmati tweeted Sunday that the government is essentially printing money, since all banks in Iran are affiliated with the state and when the government borrows money from them, the central bank has to print more money.
The president’s critics from all factions say that he has done little in his first months to address multiple crises facing the country, the most important of which is a nuclear agreement to pave the way for lifting of US sanctions. He has been warned that without removing the crippling restrictions, there could be no solution to the huge budget deficit, high inflation and the rapidly falling standards of living.