TEHRAN -- Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took the oath of office before parliament on Thursday, pledging to work toward improving people's livelihoods amid the most draconian U.S. sanctions ever.
The mid-ranking cleric formally started his four-year term on Tuesday when Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei endorsed his victory in the June election.
"In the presence of the holy Qur'an and before the nation, I swear to the omnipotent God to safeguard the official religion of the country and the Islamic Republic as well as the country’s constitution," Raisi said in a ceremony broadcast live on national television.
“I will dedicate myself to the service of the people, the honor of the country, the propagation of religion and morality, and the support of truth and justice.”
Raisi has pledged to take steps to remove the "tyrannical sanctions imposed by America" that have cut Iran's oil exports and shut it out of the international banking system.
"The Iranian people expect the new government to improve their livelihoods ... All illegal U.S. sanctions against the Iranian nation must be removed," Raisi said after being sworn in, vowing to serve the nation and improve ties with its neighbors.
Iran has been negotiating with six powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned three years ago by then U.S. President Donald Trump.
Iranian and Western officials have said significant gaps remain in the talks and have yet to announce when the negotiations, whose last round ended on June 20, will resume.
Referring to Iran's nuclear program, he said, “The policy of pressure and sanctions will not cause the nation of Iran to back down from following up on its legal rights."
Raisi cited Ayatollah Khamenei’s 2003 religious edict against pursuing nuclear weapons, saying that “such weapons have no place in the defense strategy of the Islamic Republic.”
The president also signaled that Iran seeks to expand its power as a counterbalance to foes across the region.
"Wherever there is oppression and crime in the world, in the heart of Europe, in the U.S., Africa, Yemen, Syria, Palestine ... we will stand by the people," he said. His voice rose with emotion, eliciting a clamor of approval from the audience. "The message of the election was resistance against arrogant powers. "
Raisi said, “We are the true defenders of human rights, and we do not accept silence against oppression and crime and the violation of the rights of innocent and defenseless human beings.”
Raisi, who won a landslide victory, faces a mountain of problems -- what he described on Thursday as "the highest level of hostilities by Iran's enemies, unjust economic sanctions, widespread psychological warfare and the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic."
Amid ongoing sanctions, Iran is grappling with runaway inflation and other problems related to people's livelihoods which many analysts attribute to the former administration's mismanagement.
Raisi pledged to resolve the country's mounting economic crisis, improve the spiraling currency and "empower poor people."
"The new government will work to improve the economy to resolve the nation's problems."
Ayatollah Khamenei, in an endorsement ceremony for Raisi on Tuesday, advised him to “empower the country’s poor people and improve the national currency” during his presidency.
Thursday's inauguration ceremony, scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country, still drew leaders and dignitaries from around the world.
The presidents of Iraq and Afghanistan flew in for the occasion, along with Enrique Mora, the European Union official who has coordinated the recent nuclear negotiations in Vienna. Senior officials from Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Venezuela and South Korea also attended along with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and Naim Qassem, second in command of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah.