Iran's new parliament speaker says talks with US 'futile', vows revenge over drone attack

Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf (seated) was elected speaker of Iran's parliament on May 28. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran's parliament speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf said any negotiations with the United States would be "futile" as he delivered his first major speech to the conservative-dominated chamber on Sunday.

Mr Ghalibaf, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards' air force, was elected speaker on Thursday after February elections that swung the balance in the legislature towards ultra-conservatives.

The newly formed parliament "considers negotiations with and appeasement of America, as the axis of global arrogance, to be futile and harmful," said Mr Ghalibaf.

He also vowed revenge for the US drone attack in January that killed Mr Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Guards' foreign operations arm.

"Our strategy in confronting the terrorist America is to finish the revenge for martyr Soleimani's blood," he told lawmakers in a televised address.

This, he said, would entail "the total expulsion of America's terrorist army from the region".

Decades-old tensions between Tehran and Washington have soared in the past year, with the sworn arch enemies twice appearing to come to the brink of a direct confrontation.

The tensions have been rising since 2018, when US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear accord and began reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran's economy.

That was followed by the US drone strike near Baghdad airport in January that killed Mr Soleimani, a hugely popular figure in the Islamic republic.

Days later, Iran fired a barrage of missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq in retaliation, but Trump opted against taking any military action in response.

Ghalibaf called for ties to be improved with neighbours and with "great powers who were friends with us in hard times and share significant strategic relations", without naming them.

The 58-year-old Mr Ghalibaf is a three-time presidential candidate who lost out to current incumbent Hassan Rouhani at the last election in 2017.

The newly elected speaker had also served as Teheran mayor and the Islamic republic's police chief before taking up his latest post.

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