14 Oct 2017

Global powers defy US over Iran deal shift

10:07 pm on 14 October 2017

Global powers, including key US allies, have said they will stand by the Iran nuclear deal which US President Donald Trump has threatened to tear apart.

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French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (centre) and British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: AFP

Mr Trump said on Friday that he would stop signing off on the agreement.

The UK, France and Germany responded that the pact was "in our shared national security interest". The EU said it was "not up to any single country to terminate" a "working" deal.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the US was "more isolated than ever".

"Can a president annul a multilateral international treaty on his own?" he asked.

"Apparently he doesn't know that this agreement is not a bilateral agreement solely between Iran and the United States."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Mr Trump was making baseless allegations and Teheran was committed to the international deal. Photo: AFP / IRIB TV

The deal, signed in 2015, is between Iran and six international powers - the UK, the US, Russia, France, Germany, and China. It imposed curbs on Iran's nuclear programme in return for an easing of international sanctions.

In a combative speech on Friday, Mr Trump called Iran a "fanatical regime" and said it had violated the terms of the deal. He accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism, and proposed new sanctions.

"We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran's nuclear breakout," he said.

International observers say Iran has been in full compliance with the agreement.

China has not spoken since Mr Trump's speech but previously called on the US to preserve the deal.

Russia's foreign ministry said it regretted Mr Trump's decision but did not expect it to stop the deal being implemented.

Donald Trump announces a major shift in US policy on Iran in a address at the White House.

Speaking at at the White House, Donald Trump said the US reserved the right to leave the Iran nuclear deal at any time. Photo: AFP

What does Trump's refusal to sign mean?

Congress requires the US president to certify every 90 days that Iran is upholding its part of the agreement. Mr Trump had already recertified twice, but refused to sign a third time ahead of a Sunday deadline. Congress now has 60 days to decide whether to pull out of the nuclear deal by re-imposing sanctions.

Although some advocates of the deal had feared that Mr Trump would withdraw the US entirely, he has instead essentially referred the matter to Congress.

What changes does he want?

What Mr Trump is seeking is the end to the nuclear deal's so-called "sunset clauses", one of which allows for the lifting of restrictions on Iran's nuclear enrichment programme after 2025.

He announced Treasury Department sanctions on Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, which he called the "corrupt personal terror force of Iran's leader", and called for restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile programme, which is not covered by the deal.

Last month, Iran said it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile with a 2000km range. The test was not internationally verified.

The president said that congressional leaders were already drafting amendments that would curb Iran's ballistic missile development and eliminate expiry dates on restrictions to the country's nuclear development.

How did other key players respond?

Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran was implementing the deal and was subject to "the world's most robust nuclear verification regime".

European diplomats warned that any such unilateral changes to the agreement were likely to trigger the deal's collapse and a return to a nuclear stand-off in the Middle East.

In other reaction:

  • EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Europe and the world "could not afford" to terminate a nuclear deal that was working, "especially now"
  • French President Emmanuel Macron assured Mr Rouhani of France's commitment to the deal in a phone call and is considering visiting Iran, his office said
  • "This deal lives to fight another day and that's a good thing," said UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Mr Trump, who he said had "boldly confronted Iran's terrorist regime". Saudi Arabia also backed the US president's "firm strategy"


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