Raisi says Iran ‘never has hope’ in nuclear talks as country marks 1979 revolution

Crowds wave Iranian flags, chant slogans and carry placards that read ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ as they celebrate uprising that ousted Western-backed monarchy

  • Clerics burn representations of the US flag under the Azadi (freedom) monument tower during the annual rally commemorating the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
    Clerics burn representations of the US flag under the Azadi (freedom) monument tower during the annual rally commemorating the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
  • People parade with Iran's flags during the annual rally commemorating anniversary of1979 Islamic Revolution in Azadi (freedom) Sqaure in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
    People parade with Iran's flags during the annual rally commemorating anniversary of1979 Islamic Revolution in Azadi (freedom) Sqaure in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
  • Men on motorcycles attend the annual rally commemorating the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution at the Azadi (freedom) Square in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
    Men on motorcycles attend the annual rally commemorating the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution at the Azadi (freedom) Square in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said Friday that his country “never has hope” in the nuclear negotiations with world powers to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We put our hopes in the east, west, north, south of our country and never have hope in Vienna and New York,” Raisi said in a televised speech as Iran marked the 43rd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Thousands of cars and motorbikes paraded in celebration of the event, although fewer pedestrians were out for a second straight year due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

In the capital Tehran, processions started out from several points, converging on the usual meetup point at Azadi Square.

The anniversary comes as negotiations to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers continue in Vienna. Former US president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, and in response, Iran gradually reneged on its commitments.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that a deal is “in sight,” but warned that “if it’s not reached in the coming weeks Iran’s nuclear advances will make it impossible” for the US to return to the deal.

Crowds waved Iranian flags, chanting slogans and carrying placards that read “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” in celebration on Friday, a commemoration for the uprising that ousted a Western-backed monarchy and brought the Islamists to power.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the parliament in Tehran, on November 16, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

It was the second year where celebrations were largely limited to vehicles due to the pandemic. Authorities say the aggressive Omicron variant is now dominant in the country, and hospitals have been urged to prepare for a new wave of infections.

The US believes Iran could have enough fissile material to build a nuclear weapon within weeks if it wants to, lawmakers were told in a closed-door briefing this week.

US senators expressed shock and dismay over the assessment from US negotiator Rob Malley and National Security Council envoy Brett McGurk Wednesday, even as negotiators in Vienna signaled that the sides may be nearing an agreement.

Malley and McGurk told the lawmakers that Iran could break out to a bomb within “weeks,” Politico reported, citing a House Democrat. They argued that Trump’s maximum pressure campaign had made the region more dangerous by allowing Iran to restart its nuclear program.

Senator Chris Murphy described the briefing to reporters as “sobering and shocking.”

“If Iran chose to seek a nuclear weapon today, they likely only need 60 days to develop the fuel to do so,” he wrote in an op-ed published by Time magazine Thursday, which linked to a Politico article reporting on the assessment that Iran was weeks away from having enough fuel.

“That is a scary reality for our friends in the Middle East, especially Israel,” he added.

A general view of Palais Coburg, the site of a meeting where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (AP/Lisa Leutner)

In August, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Iran was only 10 weeks away from having enough fuel to build a nuclear bomb.

Michèle Flournoy, who was undersecretary of defense in the Barack Obama administration, told MSNBC News Thursday that “breakout time is down to a matter of weeks, which is truly alarming.”

“We are in a really dangerous situation,” she said.

The assessments have piled pressure on the Biden administration to reach a deal before it becomes a moot point.

Visiting Israel Thursday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that the nuclear talks with Iran were entering a “final phase,” and had reached a “very critical point.”

On Tuesday, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a meeting that “we are reaching the last steps of the negotiation.”

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