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Hala Gorani Tonight

Poland Grants Humanitarian Visa To Belarusian Olympian; Ukrainian Police Investigate Death Of Belarusian Activist; Governor Cuomo Denies Sexual Harassment Report; Haitian First Lady Speaks About President's Assassination; Iran Transitions Under U.S. Sanctions. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired August 03, 2021 - 14:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, live from CNN in London, I'm Max Foster in for Hala Gorani. Tonight, questions swirl around the death of a

fellow Russian activist found dead in a Kiev park, that just a day after Belarusian Olympian refused to board a flight home. We'll have all the

details for you. Plus, clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban militants are intensifying. We're live in Kabul this hour with the very latest.

And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo again denies sexual harassment despite a damning report from that state's attorney general. Well, suicide or murder,

disguised as suicide. Those are two possibilities that police in Ukraine say they're considering as they investigate the death of this Belarusian

opposition activist Vitaly Shishov.

His body was found hanging in a park in Kiev with what police call abrasions and peeled skin. They say those could be consistent with the fall

before his death. Shishov helped refugees escape Belarus and to set up lives in Europe.

Belarus was already under scrutiny this week after an Olympic athlete sought asylum rather than be sent home. Kristina Timanovskaya said she

feared for her safety and freedom after publicly criticizing her coaches. The International Olympic Committee has now launched its own investigation

into her case. Nick Paton Walsh is live in London on all of this. So, first of all, if we go to Timanovskaya, you spoke to her today. What's the latest

state of players as far as she sees it?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, she introduced some interesting details about how the situation came around, saying in

fact, it was two members of the Belarusian Olympic team or management that escorted her to the airport.

They didn't say much, they just told her to pack her bags, and in fact, when she got there, she sort of typed into her phone, "I need help", and

showed the translation of that to Japanese police. That's how she rang the alarm bell. How did she know there was a problem?

Well, her grandmother, she says in fact, got in touch and had been watching Belarusian state TV coverage of her, saying that she had emotional

problems, that she was psychologically unwell. And said, look, you really shouldn't be coming back.

She says she knew then she wouldn't be able to go back to the live she had, but she feared she might in fact be taken to prison or even the psychiatric

hospital because of the suggestions on state TV that she was emotionally unwell. And that of course shows her to begin this plight for asylum in

Poland where she'll get a humanitarian visa, she says she's on her way there most likely tomorrow, she'll meet her husband there.

But interestingly too, she wants to try and continue her Olympic dreams there too, hoping Poland might allow them to possibly race for them. And

above all, she's shocked, I think that her comments about how her team was being run. Remember, she was asked to perform in a relay race she had never

done before without any consultation, that, that suddenly translates into what she sees as offending the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

She says the people taking her at the airport simply said they were told to do this, and that the order came from above, which she believes means, the

president herself. So, she still now says everyone should speak out and enjoy their freedom of speech, but accepts her life utterly transformed by

this simple Instagram post last week. Max.

FOSTER: Yes, and then we have the separate case certainly with Shishov. What do you make of what happened there, where the investigation is going

and what more we know about what happened to him?

WALSH: Yes, I mean, Vitaly Shishov as you say helping Belarusians escape their extraordinary brutal crackdown of the last year and to find new lives

often in Ukraine, in his case, but other European Union countries. Two, found in a park outside of Kiev. It seems he was on a run wearing jogging

clothes, carrying his mobile phone found near his body by police at the time.

And appears it seems to have been hung to death. Now, it isn't quite clear how the abrasions, the skin peels that you mentioned actually occurred.

Could that have been part of some sort of confrontation and then imposed hanging murder upon him or was that as police suggested may have been the

case, the result of a fall.

Obviously, because of the nature of his work and allegiances, many wondering if this was a rare example, possibly unprecedented of Belarusian

authoritarian security services targeting opponents abroad. But that simply hasn't happened as far as I am aware, yet, since the former Soviet Union,

and we may argue since the forced landing of the Ryanair jet in May to arrest an opposition blogger, since the Olympic event, extraordinarily,

clumsily handled as it was, that maybe Belarus feels it's able to act with impunity abroad, certainly, that is what the opposition leader currently

visiting Washington and London today had to say about it.



SVETLANA TIKHANOVSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: If Russia wants the - - they probably could reach everyone. And this way, I always ask people, take care of yourself. If you think that you are persecuted or you're

followed by unknown person, you have to know other -- how to act, who to phone, where to go in secure place, you know, just -- it's the duty of

everyone in exile and in the country to follow some rules.


WALSH: Now, I have to say we should re-stress, there is no evidence at this point that the Belarusian security services were behind this killing, but

for those already scared in the diaspora globally, seeing the crackdown, seeing the growing confidence you might say or perhaps outrageous behavior

of Belarus, internationally, they are concerned this could be what lies ahead, and of course, that will strike fear into the thousands of

Belarusians, often I.T. educated, western-leaning individuals who are now in Ukraine, the Baltic state to seeking asylum outside of Belarus, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nick, in London, thank you very much indeed for bringing us up to date on those two Belarusian-related stories as we reported. Poland has

granted the Belarusian Olympian a humanitarian visa and expects to welcome her for at least a couple of days we're told. We can speak now to Poland's

deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz, thank you so much for joining us. Are you able to shed --


FOSTER: Light on the process of events here, because as Nick was telling us, the athlete warned the Japanese police that she was concerned. How did

she then end up in your care?

PRZYDACZ: You know, we were approached by the Belarusian independents and the psychos who are, you know -- who are at this very moment living in

Poland because she contacted them with a question, whether we would help her, and of course, the answer was yes, that we are ready to help as we

helped thousands of Belarusians since the outbreak of the crisis.

And then she -- you know, she came to the Polish Embassy helpline and she applied for a humanitarian visa, and obviously, the answer was again, yes,

we can give you the visa, we can protect you, we can support your future activities.

That's why she already planned to come to Poland, and we are expecting her in the days to come.

FOSTER: What specifically did she say to you about her concerns about safety? What was she concerned would happen to her if she flew back?

PRZYDACZ: You know, she was threatened by the members of the Olympic -- Belarusian Olympic Committee because she criticized them and her coaches,

but not on the other activists of this Olympic committee. There is a bit of politics in there since the heart of the Belarusian Olympic Committee is

the son of Mr. Lukashenko.

So we deciding -- the committee, she somehow criticized also the political system. That's why she was afraid to come back to Belarus. She was -- there

was an attempt to force her to come back to Belarus totally against her, you know, will. And that's why we reacted. That's why when she approached

our diplomatic personnel, we decided to help her.

We believe that the people, they do have their free will, they should decide by themselves rather than the regime in Minsk. If she wants to come

to Poland, she is more than welcome to do that.

FOSTER: You've been offered full support by the European Union, by the U.K. as well, other countries are behind you. Her situation isn't going to

change rapidly. So, how long are you going to support her? I mean, what happens next week for example and the weeks ahead?

PRZYDACZ: You know, it depends on her decision. We are already in contact with her husband who is also heading to Poland. Probably she -- who will be

in there, also, in Poland very soon, and then probably they will decide whether they want to stay in Poland for a longer time or they want to

change the place or go to any other country.

You know, she -- her training center was in Austria. She is in contact with her coach in Vienna. We are planning to provide her with any capabilities

and possibilities to continue her sporting career in Poland, but it will be totally up to her.

FOSTER: Tell us a bit more about your country's support for the Belarusian opposition groups because you have been working closely with them over

time. What's the strategy there and what's the nature of that relationship?

PRZYDACZ: You know, we've been supporting civil society -- Belarusian civil society for the last 30 years, supporting also the free media in Belarus.


But Polish taxpayers basically has been supporting the only independent Belarusian-speaking TV station, "TV Belsat". But there have been hundreds

or even thousands of Belarusian opposition that's living in Poland since the outbreak of the crisis up to the rigged elections in August last year,

more than 140,000 visas were issued by Poland to Belarusian people who had to flee the country because of their unstable political and economic

situation in Belarus.

So, we've been supporting them financially, we've been supporting them politically. They were offered -- they were provided with, you know,

accommodation at the special Belarusian center and the very center of Warsaw. So, yes, trying to do our best, also we're in a good cooperation

with other member states, other democracies, other democratic states of the -- of the European Union and the western democracies, yes.

FOSTER: OK, Marcin Przydacz, deputy foreign minister of Poland, thank you very much indeed for giving us your time today --

PRZYDACZ: Thank you --

FOSTER: Still no claim of responsibility for powerful explosion that rocked Afghanistan's capital a few hours ago. The blast in central Kabul was

followed by gunfire, sirens and two more smaller explosions. The defense ministry says a car bomb exploded near the acting defense minister's

residence, and that Afghan security forces have killed four attackers.

It comes as clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban are intensifying with the militants launching a sweeping offensive across the country and

threatening to capture three regional capitals. Clarissa Ward joins me live from Kabul. Clarissa, you heard the blast.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Max. It was just before 8:00 p.m. local time, and literally, you could feel the

city was shaken. This was a large blast. One person who has been here a lot longer than we have said it's the largest blast that they felt in the city

since at least, March.

We know very few details about who was responsible and what the target was. Although, as you mentioned, it's believed that it was the acting defense

minister, we have subsequently heard that he was not at home at the time, that he is absolutely fine and in good health.

And what was unusual and really so striking, Max, was in the moments after -- you know, you heard the first blast, the gunshots, the sirens, secondary

explosion, the third explosion. And then you heard a rather unexpected sound which was people all around the city starting to chant Allahu Akbar,

which of course, means God is greatest.

But this was being chanted in defiance of this attack, it was being chanted in support of the Afghan security forces. Because all of this as you well

know, Max, is happening at an incredibly pivotal intense time with the Afghan security forces facing huge losses as the Taliban continues to make

big gains.

Three provincial capitals currently under siege, Herat, Lashkar Gah and also of course Kandahar. So, a lot of pressure right now on Afghan security

forces and a lot of fear among ordinary people, particularly here in Kabul, that with the U.S. withdrawal almost complete, they will simply be left to

the mercy or lack of mercy, I should say of the Taliban, Max.

FOSTER: How would you describe the Taliban's strategy here, and would you describe it as a success so far?

WARD: Well, I think with regards to tonight's explosion, we have to be very cautious because we don't know yet who was responsible, and no one has

claimed responsibility yet. But when we look more broadly at the huge gains that the Taliban has made, I mean, they're in control of roughly half the

districts in the country, various border crossings.

As I mentioned those three major provincial capitals under siege, and Kandahar especially, a hugely important symbolic city for many people in

Afghanistan, particularly, the Taliban. And so, there is a real sense that the momentum is on their side, that the Afghan security forces have not

been able to step up to the plate and push back as effectively as people would like to see.

Now, we're hearing that in Lashkar Gah, which is the provincial capital in Helmand province, that there may be some kind of a government counter-

offensive. In effect, there have been warnings issued to civilians who are living in areas that the Taliban has taken over, that they should evacuate

their homes.

There have been an increase of course in airstrikes coming from the Afghan force, but also from the U.S. military. But it really remains to be seen

how Afghan security forces can stem the bleeding, stop the bleeding and try to take back some of the territory that they've lost, Max.

FOSTER: It seems quiet behind you. How would you describe the situation right now, Clarissa?

WARD: It feels quieter in Kabul right now. We were continuing to hear some small protests and bursts of gunfire.


People really feeling defiant, as I said before, after that attack tonight, we saw similar displays in the western city of Herat by the way, where

militia men came out and said, come on, we've got to chant Allahu Akbar against the Taliban. And there's a sense that Kabul is trying to do the

same tonight to show that it remains uncowed in the face of, you know, a very serious offensive.

FOSTER: OK, Clarissa, thank you. Some news into us, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations say a potential hijack incident is currently

underway. It's in waters of the coast of the United Arab Emirates, CNN hasn't independently verified the incident. But according to a maritime

activity tracking website, three vessels in those waters have changed their status to not under command. We're watching that for you. Still to come, he

says his office is a demanding place to work and is not for everyone.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo defiantly pushes back against the findings of a sexual harassment investigation. Then U.S. star gymnast Simone Biles

ends this year's Olympic competition with a bronze. Hear what she said about her Chinese competitors who bested her on the balance beam.


FOSTER: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is defiantly responding to the results of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations made against

him. Less than two hours after the state attorney general's office said it determined that Cuomo had harassed multiple women. The governor released a

recorded message, he said the facts are much different than what's being portrayed. And he blamed a toxic political environment for the accusation.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.


FOSTER: One former staffer who accused Cuomo of inappropriate conduct took to Twitter calling on the governor to resign. Let's bring in CNN senior

legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid in New York. When you look at this report, it looks pretty conclusive, but not according to Cuomo.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It does look pretty conclusive. This is not just the he said, she said. This is a he said, she

said, she said, she said, she said times 11. There are 11 different victims whose allegations are detailed in this report. The attorney general said

herself that she believes them.


Investigators found these women credible, their stories in many instances were corroborated by text messages to friends and family or other evidence.

In fact, the attorney general even called these women heroic. Now, this is not currently going to any sort of criminal proceeding at this point. This

is not in criminal court here in the U.S., instead, it's really in the court of public opinion and the governor has chosen to defend himself by

releasing this recorded statement where he seems to address these allegations, in some cases, specifically.

For example, he referenced specifically his accuser Charlotte Bennett, he said in that case, she had accused him of allegedly being inappropriate,

asking her questions about her sex life, ending his survivor of sexual assault. He says in this recorded statement that he was just trying to

help, he went on to say in many instances that he didn't mean this or that some comments that were attributed to him simply were not true.

But it's not clear if this is really his best defense strategy to go out and try to quibble with or debate and litigate these individual

allegations, particularly after the attorney general's office found them to be credible. Now, not only was the governor accused of sexually harassing

11 women, both current and former state employees, he was also accused of retaliating against people who came forward.

And investigators found that this culture, this environment, this toxic work environment allowed this kind of alleged abuse to continue. And now,

we're all looking at what this means for his political future. It's clear that he is defiant, he is coming out defending himself, in some cases

questioning the accounts of his accusers, it's not clear if that will actually help him and preserve his office and his political future.

FOSTER: Yes, so, he is not walking voluntarily, but we were hearing there from one of those who made the allegations that she wants him to resign.

Where do those making the allegations take this next?

REID: Well, some of these women will have the opportunity if they want to pursue this in civil court. But at this point, the attorney general says

her work investigating this is done. So some victims do have the option to bring a civil suit if they're inside the statute of limitation, the time

period where they're still legally able to bring a claim.

But again, right now, this is really in the court of public opinion. And looking at his political future, again, a lot of kind words, a lot of

supportive words from the attorney general for these victims, but in terms of next steps, it's really up to the victims, the survivors of the sexual

harassment to determine how they want to handle their individual allegations.

And let's not forget that one of these women was a state trooper assigned to protect the governor. And in this investigation they uncovered, she told

them how Cuomo allegedly ran his hand across her stomach, from her belly button to her hip where she kept her gun, which of course, she would use to

help defend the governor. So some really salacious accusations, and it's unclear right now what exactly this will mean for his political future.

FOSTER: OK, Paula, thank you indeed for bringing us up to date on that and following it into the future. U.S. gymnastic star Simone Biles returned to

Olympic competition today, she earned a standing ovation after her balance beam routine and won a bronze medal. Chinese gymnasts Guan Chenchen and

Tang Xijing took the top two spots, winning gold and silver after the competition. Biles had this to say.


SIMONE BILES, U.S. GYMNAST: I'm pretty happy, I wasn't expecting the medal, I just came out here and just tried to do a good beam, so I switched my

discipline last minute because of everything going on. But to have these two next to me, I must say that they're absolutely amazing, and I watched

them train so hard, so they're definitely deserving as one and two. And so, just to have one more opportunity to compete at the Olympics meant the

world to me.


FOSTER: Biles' participation was far from certainty after she withdrew from the women's team final, several individual events as well, while shining a

spotlight on athlete's mental health. And many have followed in her wake as well since CNN's Selina Wang is live for us in Tokyo. You actually are at

the event today, and it's an interesting one, isn't it? Because you wouldn't normally get so excited about a bronze, but just to see the come-

back was really inspiring in itself. So, what was it like?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, it was absolutely surreal. The energy there was incredible. There was a major crowd of journalists and delegates,

and the nervousness there was palpable. I was nervous sitting on the edge of my seat knowing what the stakes were here.

This was her last chance to take back an individual medal, and that is what she did. She won a bronze. What she did there was an act of courage, of

perseverance. She has pushed through mental health challenges, what she's called the weight of the world on her shoulders.

She is the only survivor of Larry Nassar's abuse competing at these games. Not to mention, most recently, she's been dealing with this mental block

that gymnasts call the twisties. Even a few days ago, she said she was still struggling to orient herself in the air.

But with all of that, she took on the beam, that 4-inch balance beam and she executed her performed with grace, with confidence. And when she

stepped off, there was a standing ovation, loud clapping, loud cheering, and she was all smiles when she came off, she was absolutely beaming.


She went up and hugged her teammates, she went up and hugged the other competitors. And she said afterwards that the only reason why she could do

balance beam is because there wasn't any twisting involved. She also changed her dismount to make it less risky.

This is also what she said. She said, quote, "it's been a very long week, a very long five years. I didn't expect to medal today. I just wanted to go

out and do it for me. And that's what I did. It definitely feels more special, this bronze than the balance beam bronze at Rio, I will cherish it

for a long time."

Now, Max, this is the seventh Olympic medal for Simone Biles, that puts her on par with Shannon Miller, they are now the U.S. gymnasts with the most

medals ever. And while she had withdrawn from other events, she certainly didn't shy away from the Olympics she was often the loudest voice cheering

on her teammates, taking on that role of coach. And before she even stepped on that balance beam today, Max, she already accomplished something

incredible, remarkable and historic in many ways.

She had sparked this global conversation about mental health, illuminating the challenges that only athletes face. And she also showed the world that

it is OK to not be OK, it is OK to put your mental health and well-being ahead of the expectations of others. Max?

FOSTER: I wonder what the other athletes make of this, because as you say, she has -- because of her profile, she was able to open up this

conversation in a big way. People are talking about the Olympic blues now. We saw other athletes seemingly coming out, talking about similar

experience. Do they appreciate what she's done here? Does it make their life easier as athletes?

WANG: Absolutely. They appreciate what Simone Biles has done, what Naomi Osaka has done, Michael Phelps also opening up this conversation earlier. I

spoke to a Japanese swim star Yui Ohashi, she's now the first Japanese woman to win multiple gold medals at a single Olympics, and she told me,

she herself had struggled from anxiety and depression.

And she really commends the courage of Simone Biles to speak up about this issue because there's a pressure that so many of these athletes face. And

Simone Biles said that before, what the athletes were told were just to push through it.

But there's also, Max, understanding that gymnastics is a dangerous sport, and when Simone Biles says she's mentally not in the right head space, that

could have serious repercussions and her physical well-being as well.

FOSTER: OK, Selina Wang, a fascinating story, thank you so much for joining us live from Tokyo. We are going to have much more on the Olympics ahead,

"WORLD SPORT" coming up in about 20 minutes right after HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Now, still to come though in the show, she was the only witness in

the assassination of Haiti's president. Now, the first lady is speaking to CNN about what she went through and what she's demanding from

investigators. And later, ushering in a changing of the guard in Iran.

The incoming hardline president wins the approval he needs to take office.




FOSTER: Almost a month after witnessing the assassination of her husband, Haitian president Jovenel Moise, the first lady is speaking out about the

harrowing attack. In an interview with CNN, Martine Moise described the chilling details of the assassination and calls for international help to

bring the killers to justice.

Matt Rivers has the story.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We had a chance to sit down for nearly 90 minutes with the first lady. And two things were abundantly

clear from our conversation.

One, she wants justice for her husband and, two, she is not entirely convinced that the investigation as it stands right now can provide that.

RIVERS (voice-over): When gunmen stormed Haiti's presidential residence and assassinated President Jovenel Moise, just one witness was there when he


RIVERS: Madam first lady, how are you? Thank you so much.

RIVERS (voice-over): His wife, Haiti's first lady, Martine Moise. Flanked by private security, she agreed to go on camera for the first time with her

side of a story that's left her shaken.

RIVERS: You have armed security here at this interview. We've been asked and agreed, not to disclose the location of where we're talking right now.

You are, obviously, at least, thinking about threats to your life. Do you feel like your life right now is at risk?

MARTINE MOISE, HAITIAN FIRST LADY: Yes. It is. Because I wasn't supposed to be alive.

RIVERS (voice-over): In a long conversation that switched between Haitian Creole and English, Moise described, in vivid detail, what happened the

night her husband was killed.

"It was around 1 am," she says, "when the shooting started. It wasn't something small. It was the sounds of automatic weapons."

Bullet holes still pockmark the compound. At the time, she and her husband, hid in their bedroom. But just minutes later, she says the door burst open.

Gunfire ripped through the air and at first, only she was hit. Face down and bleeding, she thinks about a dozen men ransacked the room, looking for

something specific.

"They came to find something, because I heard them saying, 'That's not it, that's not it. There it is,' which means they found what they were looking


She doesn't know what they found, but after they did, an attacker approached her husband, at this point, still alive and unhurt and got on

the phone.

She says, "That person called someone and described what my husband looked like, saying he was tall, skinny and black. Maybe the person on the phone

confirmed to the shooter that was him and they shot him on the floor."

The president was dead and the attackers left soon after. Moise believes they thought she was dead, too. Critically wounded, she lifted herself up.

RIVERS: When you stood up and you saw that he was dead, did you say anything to him?

MOISE (through translator): In my heart, I said something I used to tell him when he was alive. We are married, for better or worse and even beyond

the grave.

RIVERS (voice-over): Her left side bleeding and her right arm shredded by gunfire, she's eventually let out of the house by police and comes to a

quick conclusion. The dozens of security guards normally on hand to protect the president either let the attackers in, or they abandoned their posts.

"There's no other explanation," she says. "You're there to protect the president and the president is dead and you are nowhere to be found,"

adding she was amazed apparently not a single guard was injured. Moise believes it's part of a much larger conspiracy.

RIVERS: At your husband's funeral, you said, quote, "The raptors are still out there, watching and laughing at us."

What did you mean by that?

MOISE: Yes, they are. Because no one is being arrested yet. The people that they arrest, these are the people that pulled the trigger. They won't pull

the trigger with no others. So what we do need is the people that paid for that and the people that gave the order.

RIVERS: And you think that that person, or persons, has not yet been arrested?

MOISE: No. No.


RIVERS (voice-over): The official investigation has led to the arrest of more than 40 suspects but has still not provided a motive for the

president's killing or identified a mastermind behind it all.

That has left a vacuum Haiti flooded with theories about who killed the president who, at the time of his death, was an embattled, largely

unpopular leader. Even still, for his widow, this was an unimaginable ending.

MOISE: I never thought that the level of hate ever existed in the country.

RIVERS: You never thought this could happen?


RIVERS: Because your husband did have a lot of enemies.

MOISE: He did. But I didn't know that they hated that much, to kill him.

RIVERS: The first lady said very specifically she is publicly calling on the United Nations to set up a special investigative tribunal to look into

the assassination of her husband.

She said, without foreign investigators taking the charge, she is not sure the world and the people of Haiti will ever really find out who killed her

husband and why -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Miami.


FOSTER: Turning to coronavirus, the city where the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged, Wuhan, China said they will test all 11 million residents for the

virus after seven local cases were reported, the first in more than a year.

Infections are on the rise, leading to tougher restrictions. More than a million residents in one area are under lockdown. It's not just China.

Coronavirus cases are surging elsewhere in asia. On Monday, Malaysia recording its highest single day of deaths since the pandemic hit.

Thailand has extended its lockdown until the end of the month to slow the spread of the Delta variant.

Iran's supreme leader has formally cleared the way for ultra conservative Ebrahim Raisi to take office as president later this week. The incoming

leader struck a defiant tone towards the West as he laid out his policy priorities. Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran with the details.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iran's political transition is nearly complete as the incoming hardline

president Ebrahim Raisi is officially accept by supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

Raisi vowed to try to get sanctions on Iran lifted but not cooperate with countries like the U.S.

"We will definitely seek to eliminate and lift the tyrannical sanctions," he said. "We will not make the people's livelihood conditional. We will not

tie all these things to foreigners. We will definitely pursue the matters that are immediate issues for us and we are facing today."

Iran faces a multitude of immediate issues. The economy continues to struggle as the sanctions put in place by the Trump administration continue

to take their toll. Water shortages have recently led to demonstrations, some of them violent.

With the Iran supreme leader said he understands the protesters and that their demands needs to be addressed.

Raisi vowing to tackle the matter.

"These matters have been detected and I assure the people that the solutions have been delineated and we have benefited from the views of

experts and scholars and this will be urgently dealt with."

Raisi will take office amid heighten tensions with the West, the U.S. Israel and the U.K. are blaming Iran for the drone attack on the Israeli

linked tanker Mercer Street, an attack that killed two sailors from Britain and Romania.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are in very close contact and coordination with the United Kingdom, Israel, Romania and other countries.

And there will be a collective response.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Iran denies the allegations and is warning against any retaliation. The incoming administration in Tehran says it will get

tougher on the U.S. while negotiations continue to try to revive the Iran nuclear agreement.

Ebrahim Raisi has already shot down any direct talks with Washington. When asked at a recent press conference if he would speak with President Biden,

he simply said no.


FOSTER: Fred is in Tehran.

We are looking at the next stage of what this means to Iran and internationally what it means to the Iran nuclear deal.

How do you look at this playing out?

PLEITGEN: You are absolutely right. Those are one of many things people are looking to, the new foreign policy and, first and foremost, for people in

this country and elsewhere, what this could mean for the revival of the Iran nuclear agreement.

There have been negotiations to bring the U.S. back into the deal and bring Iran back into full compliance.


PLEITGEN: But with every day that passes, it becomes more difficult. Now you have a new administration taking office. That means there will be new

negotiators. Some will continue; others might not. But Iranians are afraid the U.S. might not be in it for the long term, that the next administration

after the Biden administration could leave the agreement again.

The U.S. is saying they want to talk about follow on agreements, like Iran's ballistic missile program, some actions here in the Middle East. So

there are still some things that are difficult and haven't become easier with a new president.

Raisi is very tough on the United States. He did say today that he wanted the sanctions to be lifted but, at the same time, he does believe he needs

to be very careful when dealing with the United States.

And Iran's supreme leader has said also he does not believe negotiations with Western countries like the U.S. are going to help Tehran in the long

term. So things become more difficult as time passes to reinstate that nuclear agreement.

FOSTER: Domestically, you're looking at the cy, youth unemployment, all sorts of issues.

How are the young looking at this?

PLEITGEN: It is difficult. But one thing you do hear is a lot of folks are really disillusioned with the Rouhani administration. There were hopes when

the nuclear deal was signed and went into effect. There were celebrations on the streets of Tehran.

But as the Trump administration moved in and led a tough sanctions campaign, that kicked things in and made it very difficult. There are

beliefs that the Rouhani administration mishandled that moment.

The new Raisi administration wants to make Iran's economy more self reliant, less reliant on foreign investment. Some believe that will be very

difficult but it is the case that the new president believes that will be his way forward.

FOSTER: Fred in Tehran, thanks indeed.

Thanks for watching tonight. Do stay with CNN. "WORLD SPORT" is up next with the latest on the Olympics.