Saturday 21 September 2019

UN leader hopes Iran nuclear deal will stand

Donald Trump said Iran is not living up to the
Donald Trump said Iran is not living up to the "spirit" of the nuclear deal that it signed in 2015 and announced a new strategy (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The head of the UN has said he " strongly hopes" the Iran nuclear deal will remain in place, after Donald Trump accused Tehran of violating the accord and said he might pull the US out.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reacted to the President's harsh criticism of the deal as US defence secretary Jim Mattis said his first priority on Iran is to confer with allies.

A spokesman for Mr Guterres said he has long praised the 2015 pact as a very important breakthrough to stem the spread of nuclear weapons and advance global peace.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his country would continue to stick to the nuclear deal and that the U.S. was isolating itself, "more lonely than ever," by condemning the accord.

The UN agency monitoring the nuclear deal has said Iran is honouring its commitments.

However the US President said on Friday that Tehran has failed to honour the spirit of the deal and has committed "multiple violations" of the pact.

Mr Trump blamed the Iranians for a litany of sinister behaviour and hit their main military wing with anti-terror penalties.

Mr Mattis later told reporters at the Pentagon that he wants to hear first-hand from allies in the Middle East and beyond, to understand better their views on what the Trump administration calls " misbehaviour " in areas other than nuclear weapons.

He was referring to Iranian support for extremist groups and its ballistic missile program, among others.

Mr Mattis said the US intends to "dissuade" Iran from shipping arms to Yemen, where it supports Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

He said this does not imply any US military action but rather a sharing of intelligence with allies and partners who share a concern about Iranian behaviour.

Mr Trump, breaking his campaign pledge to rip up the agreement, did not pull the US out of the deal or re-impose nuclear sanctions.

He still might, he was quick to add. For now, he is tossing the issue to Congress and the other nations in the seven-country accord, telling lawmakers to toughen the law that governs US participation and calling on the other parties to fix a series of deficiencies.

Those include the scheduled expiration of key restrictions under "sunset provisions" that begin to kick in in 2025, as well as the omission of provisions on ballistic missile testing and terrorism.

Without the fixes, Mr Trump warned, he would likely pull the US out of the deal - which he has called the worst in US history - and slap previously lifted US sanctions back into place.

That would probably be a fatal blow for the seven-party accord.

"Our participation can be cancelled by me, as president, at any time," Mr Trump declared in a carefully delivered speech read from a teleprompter in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House.

He added later, speaking of Congress, "They may come back with something that's very satisfactory to me, and if they don't, within a very short period of time, I'll terminate the deal."

Under US law, Mr Trump faces a Sunday deadline to certify to Congress whether Iran is complying with the accord.

That notification must take place every 90 days, a timetable that Mr Trump detests.

Since taking office, he has twice reluctantly certified that Iran is fulfilling its commitments.


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