TEHRAN — Iran’s ultraconservative judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, has been elected president after a vote that many Iranians skipped, seeing it as rigged in his favor.
The Interior Ministry announced the final results on Saturday, saying Mr. Raisi had won with nearly 18 million of 28.9 million ballots cast in the voting a day earlier. Turnout was 48.8 percent — a significant decline from the last presidential election, in 2017.
Two rival candidates had conceded hours earlier, and President Hassan Rouhani congratulated Mr. Raisi on his victory, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.
Huge swaths of moderate and liberal-leaning Iranians sat out the election, saying that the campaign had been engineered to put Mr. Raisi in office or that voting would make little difference. He had been expected to win handily despite late attempts by the more moderate reformist camp to consolidate support behind their main candidate: Abdolnasser Hemmati, a former central bank governor.
a hard-line cleric favored by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and has been seen as his possible successor. He has a record of grave human rights abuses, including accusations of playing a role in the mass execution of political opponents in 1988, and is currently under United States sanctions.
an often strident get-out-the-vote campaign: One banner brandished an image of General Suleimani’s blood-specked severed hand, still bearing his trademark deep-red ring, urging Iranians to vote “for his sake.” Another showed a bombed-out street in Syria, warning that Iran ran the risk of turning into that war-ravaged country if voters stayed home.
pulled the United States out of the nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions in 2018.
The prospects for a renewed nuclear agreement could improve with Mr. Raisi’s victory. Ayatollah Khamenei appeared to be stalling the current talks as the election approached. But American diplomats and Iranian analysts said that there could be movement in the weeks between Mr. Rouhani’s departure and Mr. Raisi’s ascension.
A deal finalized then could leave Mr. Rouhani with the blame for any unpopular concessions and allow Mr. Raisi to claim credit for any economic improvements once sanctions are lifted.
WASHINGTON — Iran agreed on Monday to a one-month extension of an agreement with international inspectors that would allow them to continue monitoring the country’s nuclear program, avoiding a major setback in the continuing negotiations with Tehran.
Under the agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran will extend access to monitoring cameras at its nuclear facilities until June 24, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the agency’s director general, told reporters in Vienna.
The extension prevents a new crisis that could derail talks among world powers, including the United States, aimed at bringing Washington back to the 2015 nuclear deal that President Donald J. Trump withdrew from three years ago. Restoring the deal, including a commitment from Iran to resume all its obligations under the agreement, is a top priority for President Biden.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said in a statement that the decision was made “so that negotiations have the necessary chance to progress and bear results.”
reached a three-month compromise under which inspectors would retain partial access to nuclear production facilities.
Under that agreement, Iran allowed cameras to continue monitoring its facilities but insisted on retaining possession of the footage until an agreement to restore the larger nuclear deal was reached. The country’s state media reported on Monday that it would share the footage with the International Atomic Energy Agency if the United States lifted sanctions as part of a restored deal, but would erase the recordings otherwise.
The agreement will allow for other methods of continued international visibility into the nuclear program, but neither Iran nor the agency has publicly provided full details about their compromise.
“I want to stress this is not ideal,” Mr. Grossi said. “This is like an emergency device that we came up with in order for us to continue having these monitoring activities.”
sanctions that are strangling Iran’s oil exports and economy.
Because Tehran refuses to negotiate directly with the United States over the 2015 deal, which it says that Mr. Trump violated without cause, American negotiators have been working from a nearby hotel and communicating with Iranian officials through intermediaries.
Appearing on “This Week” on ABC on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that the talks had made progress but suggested that Tehran was delaying further progress.
“Iran, I think, knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side. And what we haven’t yet seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do,” he said. “That’s the test, and we don’t yet have an answer.”
on Twitter. He asked if the United States was ready to return to the deal by lifting the sanctions and said that Iran would return to its full commitments once Washington had done so.
“Lifting Trump’s sanctions is a legal & moral obligation,” Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, tweeted on Sunday. “NOT negotiating leverage.”
He added of the sanctions, “Didn’t work for Trump — won’t work for you.”
Iran has steadily expanded its nuclear program since Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the deal. Its government said on Monday that the stockpile of enriched uranium at higher levels had increased in the past four months.
Iran now has a stockpile of 2.5 kilograms of uranium enriched to 60 percent purity, 90 kilograms of enriched uranium at 20 percent and 5,000 kilograms of enriched uranium at 5 percent, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, told state television.
Uranium enriched to 60 percent purity is a relatively short step from bomb fuel, which is typically considered 90 percent or higher. While uranium enriched to 60 percent can be used as fuel in civilian nuclear reactors, such applications have been discouraged globally because it can easily be turned into bomb fuel.
The nuclear deal with world powers capped Iran’s enrichment and stockpiling of nuclear material at 2.2 kilograms of uranium enriched to a level of 3.7 percent.
MOSCOW — The tray tables were being raised and the seat backs returned to their upright positions as passengers on Ryanair Flight 4978 prepared for the scheduled landing in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Then the plane made an abrupt U-turn.
For many passengers, it initially seemed like one of those unexpected delays in airline travel. But after the pilot announced the plane had been diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, one passenger — Roman Protasevich, a prominent Belarusian opposition journalist who had been living in exile since 2019 — grew terrified, certain that he faced arrest.
“He panicked because we were about to land in Minsk,” Marius Rutkauskas, who was sitting one row ahead of Mr. Protasevich, told the Lithuanian broadcaster LRT upon arrival in Vilnius.
Sunday’s ordeal — described by many European officials as an extraordinary, state-sponsored hijacking by Belarus to seize Mr. Protasevich — quickly led to one of the most severe East-West flare-ups in recent years.
report rejecting the idea there were K.G.B. agents on the plane, instead showing three people who said on camera that they had decided to stay in Minsk by their own choosing. They included a Greek man who said he had been traveling to Vilnius on his way to visit his wife in Minsk.
In Lithuania, the police launched an investigation on suspicion of hijacking and kidnapping, and interviewed passengers and crew. They were told that the fighter jet dispatched by Mr. Lukashenko to escort the flight had not forced the Ryanair plane to land, according to people with knowledge of the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Instead, these people said, the pilot had decided to land the plane in Minsk after Belarusian air traffic control had requested that he do so because of a bomb threat on board.
other confessional videos that critics of Mr. Lukashenko have been forced to record while in jail.
an urgent meeting for Thursday to discuss it.
In recent years, Mr. Lukashenko had profited by playing the interests of Russia and the West off against one another. But amid last summer’s popular uprising against him over his disputed re-election, Mr. Lukashenko threw in his lot with Mr. Putin — and has relied on his support ever since.
Last year, the European Union sanctioned Belarus officials — including Mr. Lukashenko — over human rights abuses, to little apparent effect. The flight bans could have a greater impact, at least on regular people; the summer 2021 timetable of Belavia, Belarus’s national carrier, includes flights to 20 E.U. cities.
And some analysts said the restrictions could require costly rerouting for European airlines, which are already avoiding parts of Ukraine, Belarus’s southern neighbor, because of conflict with Russia.
The flight bans could cause new problems for Mr. Lukashenko inside his country, where the ease of travel to the neighboring European Union had long softened the strictures of living inside an authoritarian state. Ukraine, which is not a member of the E.U., also said it would ban flights to and from Belarus. The growing isolation means that Belarusians will increasingly need to travel east to Russia in order to get out of the country.
Yevgeny Lipkovich, a popular Minsk-based blogger and commentator critical of Mr. Lukashenko, said that his own travels abroad had allowed him to “remain an optimist, despite the regime’s best efforts to force me into depression.”
“If they close down the air loophole, there’s no question that the pressure inside the country will increase,” Mr. Lipkovich said. “And it’s disgusting to live in a pariah state.”
Reporting was contributed by Ivan Nechepurenko from Moscow; Tomas Dapkus from Vilnius, Lithuania; Stanley Reed from London; and Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Monika Pronczuk from Brussels.
The European Union on Monday called on all E.U.- based airlines to stop flying over Belarus and began the process of banning Belarusian airlines from flying over the bloc’s airspace or landing in its airports — effectively blocking the country’s air connections to Western Europe.
The decision was announced Monday evening during a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels, and followed Belarus’s forced landing of a commercial flight between Athens and Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sunday.
After diverting the plane, the Belarusian authorities arrested Roman Protasevich, a young Belarusian dissident journalist on board.
On Monday, the European Union leaders demanded the “immediate release of Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega and that their freedom of movement be guaranteed.” Ms. Sapega is Mr. Protasevich’s partner.
Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, and some of his associates.
But outraged over the forced landing of the Ryanair flight, European leaders wanted to step up the pressure, with the aviation-focused measures coming as a first step.
Leaders also pledged to add new sanctions against the Minsk regime, by imposing “additional listings of persons and entities as soon as possible.”
NAIROBI, Kenya — Growing American frustration over the war in the Tigray region of Ethiopia spilled over into an open confrontation on Monday when Ethiopian officials lashed out at Washington over new restrictions including aid cuts and a ban on some Ethiopians traveling to the United States.
The restrictions, announced by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Sunday, amount to an unusual step against a key African ally, and a pointed rebuke to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose troops and allies have been accused of ethnic cleansing, massacres and others atrocities that could amount to war crimes.
Despite “significant diplomatic engagement,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement, “the parties to the conflict in Tigray have taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities or pursue a peaceful resolution of the political crisis.”
American visa restrictions will apply to all actors in the Tigray conflict, Mr. Blinken said, including current and former Ethiopian and Eritrean officials, ethnic Amhara militias and Tigrayan rebels.
a statement on Monday, Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministry reacted with an expression of regret and what appeared to be thinly veiled threats. It accused the United States of meddling in its internal affairs and trying to overshadow national elections scheduled for June 21.
And it said that Ethiopia could be “forced to reassess its relations with the United States, which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.”
gave $923 million, according to USAID, although the vast majority of that money was for humanitarian purposes — health care, food aid, education and democracy support — that will not be hit by the new measures.
The United States had already suspended $23 million in security aid to Ethiopia. Officials say the new measures will preclude any American arms sales to Ethiopia, although much of the country’s weapons come from Russia.
Still, there could be other impacts. Western diplomats say the United States could block international funding to Ethiopia from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund — integral to Mr. Abiy’s economic plans.
dispatched by President Biden in March, and Jeffrey Feltman, the recently appointed Horn of Africa envoy.
American officials worry that the growing chaos in Tigray could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa region, or jeopardize efforts to mediate a high-stakes dispute with Egypt over the massive hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Nile.
The growing humanitarian crisis, including the threat of a famine within months, is also driving the sense of urgency.
Those responsible for the Tigray crisis “should anticipate further actions from the United States and the international community,” Mr. Blinken said. “We call on other governments to join is taking these measures.”
Israeli airstrikes killed more than 230 people, destroyed more than 1,000 housing and commercial units, rendered more than 750 uninhabitable, and displaced more than 77,000 people, according to tallies compiled by Gazan officials and the United Nations. Seventeen clinics and hospitals were damaged, as well as three major desalination plants, power lines and sewage works, leaving 800,000 residents, or nearly half the population, without easy access to clean drinking water, the United Nations added. More than 53 schools were damaged.
The destruction compounds a long-term economic crisis in Gaza, where the unemployment rate hovers around 50 percent. Israel and Egypt enforce a blockade on Gaza to restrict the flow of weapons and munitions to Hamas, which much of the world considers a terrorist organization. The two countries restrict who and what can enter the enclave, and control much of its energy supply, while Israel alone controls its airspace, maritime fishing rights, birth registry and cellular data.
The casualties and damage caused by this month’s war are far less than those wrought by the one in 2014, when Israeli ground forces invaded and more than 2,200 people were killed during a 50-day conflict.
But for many Palestinians, it was enough to give the cease-fire a sense of déjà vu, instead of just a feeling of relief. Israel and Hamas have faced off a half-dozen times in the last decade and a half, in confrontations that often left considerable damage to civilian infrastructure.
“Whenever there is a war in Gaza, it sets us back 20 years,” said Mr. Abul Ouf. “Whenever we try to improve the economy, they destroy it.”
The European Parliament halted progress Thursday on a landmark commercial agreement with China, citing the “totalitarian threat” from Beijing because of its record on human rights and its sanctions against Europeans who have been critical of the Chinese government.
By an overwhelming majority, members of Parliament passed a resolution refusing to ratify the so-called Comprehensive Agreement on Investment until China lifts sanctions on prominent European critics of Beijing. The members of Parliament also warned that they could refuse to endorse the agreement because of China’s treatment of Muslim minorities and its suppression of democracy in Hong Kong.
“The human rights situation in China is at its worst since the Tiananmen Square massacre,” the resolution said, accusing China of detaining more than one million people, mostly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, a charge the Chinese government has denied.
The sanctions against members of the European Parliament who have been critical of Beijing, as well as several scholars and research organizations, “constitute an attack against the European Union and its Parliament as a whole, the heart of European democracy and values, as well as an attack against freedom of research,” the resolution said.
sanctions against four Communist Party officials after accusing them of being responsible for human rights violations.
China retaliated with sanctions against members of the European Parliament, including Reinhard Bütikofer, a member of the Greens faction from Germany and prominent critic of Beijing. They are not allowed to travel to China or do business with people in China.
The investment agreement was already in trouble. Valdis Dombrovskis, the European commissioner for trade, said earlier in May that work to finalize the pact was delayed because of repressive Chinese policies. The European Commission, the European Union’s administrative arm, also took steps this month to clamp down on Chinese companies that receive subsidies from the government, giving them an unfair competitive edge.
The resolution passed Thursday by a vote of 599 in favor and 30 against, with 58 abstentions. The no votes came from a handful of far-right or far-left members of Parliament.
But, the official said, the United States has been challenged to enforce the sanctions without reliable help from allies and as traders play a “cat-and-mouse game” to avoid being tracked on the high seas. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity while the Iran talks were continuing.
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships conducting security patrols in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf have been confronted by Iranian military vessels three times over the past month, heightening tensions that could, if allowed to escalate, threaten the delicate nuclear negotiations in Vienna. Twenty percent of the global oil supply — about 18 million barrels each day — flows through the strait.
Other world powers have been reluctant to enforce sanctions that were imposed, over their objections, when the United States left the nuclear deal in 2018. The most notable example came last fall, when the Trump administration declared it had reimposed international sanctions against Iran that the United Nations Security Council refused to recognize.
The United States has also warned that it could impose what are known as secondary sanctions on foreign buyers of Iran’s oil, which would cut them out of American markets and other transactions that are processed in U.S. dollars. That has spooked international companies that do not want to lose access to American banks and some analysts said that it has hurt relations between the United States and European allies who had hoped the nuclear deal would open new economic markets for their industries in Iran.
“If the United States tries to use sanctions for everything, and tries to tell the rest of the world what it can and can’t do, at some point other countries could well push back and say, ‘We’ve had enough of this,’” said Corinne A. Goldstein, a sanctions expert and senior counsel at the law firm Covington & Burling. “So I think the United States risks losing the power of sanctions by abusing their use.”
Since January, The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has fined companies more than $2.1 million for violating its sanctions against Iran to settle or otherwise resolve yearslong cases, some of which began under President Barack Obama. The Treasury Department resolved about as many violations of Iran sanctions for all of 2020, including a $4.1 million settlement with Berkshire Hathaway after one of its Turkish subsidiaries was accused of selling goods to Iran and then trying to hide the transaction.
Elliott Abrams, who oversaw the drumbeat of sanctions against Iran toward the end of the Trump administration, said the penalties blocked revenues worth tens of billions of dollars to Tehran, limiting how much support Iran could devote to its nuclear and military programs, including its proxy forces across the Middle East.
President Biden and Iran’s leaders say they share a common goal: They both want to re-enter the nuclear deal that President Donald J. Trump scrapped three years ago, restoring the bargain that Iran would keep sharp limits on its production of nuclear fuel in return for a lifting of sanctions that have choked its economy.
But after five weeks of shadow boxing in Vienna hotel rooms — where the two sides pass notes through European intermediaries — it has become clear that the old deal, strictly defined, does not work for either of them anymore, at least in the long run.
The Iranians are demanding that they be allowed to keep the advanced nuclear-fuel production equipment they installed after Mr. Trump abandoned the pact, and integration with the world financial system beyond what they achieved under the 2015 agreement.
The Biden administration, for its part, says that restoring the old deal is just a steppingstone. It must be followed immediately by an agreement on limiting missiles and support of terrorism — and making it impossible for Iran to produce enough fuel for a bomb for decades. The Iranians say no way.
financial restrictions that go beyond that deal — mostly involving conducting transactions with Western banks — because it would create what one senior administration official called a “ripe circumstance for a negotiation on a follow-on agreement.”
The Iranians refuse to even discuss a larger agreement. And American officials say it is not yet clear that Iran really wants to restore the old deal, which is derided by powerful hard-liners at home.
campaign of sabotage and assassination to cripple the Iranian program — and perhaps the negotiations themselves. So it was notable that the director of the Mossad, who has led those operations, was recently ushered into the White House for a meeting with the president. After an explosion at the Natanz nuclear plant last month, Mr. Biden told aides that the timing — just as the United States was beginning to make progress on restoring the accord — was suspicious.
The split with Israel remains. In the meetings in Washington last week — which included Mr. Blinken; the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns; and the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan — Israeli officials argued that the United States was naïve to return to the old accord, which they think preserved a nascent nuclear breakout capability.
Mr. Biden’s top aides argued that three years of “maximum pressure” on Iran engineered by Mr. Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had failed to break its government or limit its support of terrorism. In fact, it had prompted nuclear breakout.
told the BBC.
Iran wants more sanctions lifted than the United States judges consistent with the deal, while insisting on keeping more of its nuclear infrastructure — in particular advanced centrifuges — than that deal permits. Instead, Iran argues that the International Atomic Energy Agency should simply inspect the new centrifuges, a position that is unacceptable to Washington.
While the talks continue, Iran is keeping up the pressure by adding to its stockpile of highly enriched uranium and the equipment to make it, all in violation of the deal.
Both Iran and the United States are working under delicate political constraints. Even as Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has supported the Vienna talks, Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Zarif are mocked by powerful conservatives who do not trust Washington and who expect to capture the presidency.
For his part, Mr. Biden must contend with a Congress that is highly skeptical of a deal and largely sympathetic to the concerns of Israel.
increasing enrichment to just short of bomb grade in small quantities and barring international inspectors from key sites in late February — Mr. Zarif insists that these moves are easily reversible.
American intelligence officials say that while Iran has bolstered its production of nuclear material — and is probably only months from being able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one or two bombs — even now, there is no evidence Iran is advancing on its work to fashion a warhead. “We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device,” Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, said in a report last month.
scandal over Mr. Zarif, whose criticism of internal decision-making recently leaked, apparently in an effort to damage his reputation and any chance he had to run for the presidency.
Ayatollah Khamenei refuted the criticism without naming Mr. Zarif, but he said the comments were “a big mistake that must not be made by an official of the Islamic Republic” and “a repetition of what Iran’s enemies say.”
At the same time, by downplaying Mr. Zarif’s role, the supreme leader reaffirmed his support for the talks while also sheltering them from criticism by hard-liners, said Ellie Geranmayeh of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and David E. Sanger from Washington. Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.
WASHINGTON — The United States and Iran could each come back into compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal within weeks, a senior State Department official said on Thursday, on the eve of what could be a final round of negotiations before an agreement is brokered.
Significant hurdles remain. But the comments were an optimistic signal by the Biden administration that an American return to the accord between Iran and world powers could be within reach.
Briefing journalists on the condition of anonymity, the senior official described the likelihood of an agreement before Iran’s presidential elections in mid-June as both possible and doable. He did not rule out that it could come in the round of talks that begin on Friday in Vienna.
Still, the official cautioned that the United States and Iran continued to diverge on the extent to which each side needed to comply with the original terms of the 2015 deal — namely, unwinding economic sanctions by Washington in exchange for Tehran scaling back its nuclear program.
withdrew from the deal in 2018 to pressure Iran into a broader agreement that would have also limited its missile program and military activities across the Middle East. Later that year, the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran’s key financial sectors, including its lucrative oil industry, to squeeze its economy and try to force Tehran back to the bargaining table.
Instead, Iran resisted the pressure campaign by accelerating its nuclear program and raising its prospects for building a weapon.
President Biden has pledged to rejoin the nuclear accord — but has also called for negotiating a “longer and stronger” deal afterward to curb Iran’s missile program and its support for proxy forces in places such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where they threaten U.S. allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.
As American negotiators have warned in recent weeks that an agreement on reviving the 2015 deal may ultimately be thwarted, Iranian officials have cast the negotiations in a far rosier light.
Iran’s installation of advanced centrifuges last month.
The centrifuges shorten the time needed to enrich uranium, the fuel for nuclear bombs, and Western negotiators have demanded they be destroyed, Iran’s state media reported. Iran, however, wants to maintain the centrifuges, but would allow them to be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.
Asked about the centrifuges in his briefing to reporters, the senior State Department official would not directly discuss them, except to suggest that their capabilities for enriching uranium would exceed the terms of the 2015 agreement.
Iranian state media also reported that Tehran’s negotiators want the United States to drop its terrorism designation against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a powerful arm of Iran’s military. American officials have made clear that they do not intend to lift sanctions or address issues in the current nuclear talks that go beyond the limits of the 2015 deal. The terrorism designation was imposed in 2019.
The senior State Department official left open the possibility of an unrelated but parallel deal with Tehran to immediately release four American detainees held in Iran, regardless of the timing of a nuclear agreement. Iranian officials have also been pressing for a prisoner swap of its citizens being held in the United States.
is presumed dead — in describing intense and continuing discussions through intermediaries to free the detainees.