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Rouhani lashes out at Trump, says no changes to nuclear deal

Iranian president rejects Emmanuel Macron's suggestion of a new agreement with Tehran during talks with US president.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has accused the United States and France of acting unilaterally in announcing potential plans to reshape a landmark nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers in 2015.

Rouhani, speaking on Wednesday in Iran's northwestern city of Tabriz, questioned comments made a day earlier by French President Emmanuel Macron, alongside his US counterpart Donald Trump, regarding a potential "new deal".

"You [Trump], along with the leader of some European country, are deciding for an agreement reached among seven parties. Who allowed you to do that?" Rouhani said, according to Iran's Press TV news website.

"I have spoken with Macron several times by phone, and one time in person at length. I have told him explicitly that we will not add anything to the deal or remove anything from it, even one sentence. The nuclear deal is the nuclear deal." 

Referring to the US president - a property tycoon who assumed office in January last year - as someone without "any background in politics ... law ... [and] international treaties", Rouhani said: "Donald Trump says this deal is a very bad deal. Well, if it's a very bad deal, then why did the US government sign it?

"He says this is a very dangerous deal. If that's the case, why did your predecessors not understand anything? Are you the discoverer of all things bad?"

He added: "How can a tradesman, a merchant, a building constructor, a tower constructor make judgements about international affairs.''

The Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), eased sanctions on Iran in return for it agreeing that it would not develop nuclear weapons.

The US, Iran, France, Russia, Germany, China, United Kingdom and the European Union are signatories to the agreement.

Rouhani has warned "severe consequences" should the deal falter. Earlier this month, a senior Iranian official warned that the country could ramp i[ its uranium enrichment to 20 percent on short notice, if the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement.

France pursuing 'new deal'

On Tuesday, during a three-day state visit to the US, Macron said France wishes to "work on a new deal with Iran" following "frank discussions" with Trump, who is a fierce critic of the 2015 agreement signed by on behalf of the US by his predecessor, Barack Obama. 

"Together, and with the powers of the region and Iranian leaders, we need to find a deal. This is the only way to bring about stability," Macron said.

Any new deal must block all Iranian nuclear activity to 2025, prevent Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons, and contain Tehran's influence in countries throughout the Middle East, including Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, he added.

Under the terms of the current agreement, Iran would be able to restart part of its nuclear programme from 2025 onwards as part of a so-called "sunset clause".

Trump denounces deal's 'decayed foundations' 

Trump, who has described the existing agreement as "insane", said on Tuesday the deal has "decayed foundations".

In October, the US president refused to recertify that Iran was in compliance with the nuclear deal, despite the International Atomic Energy Agency having repeatedly certified Tehran's compliance with the agreement.

Trump's decision meant the US Congress had 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions that would have likely killed the deal, which it did not elect to do.

Referring to the prospect of a fresh agreement, Trump said on Tuesday there was a "great shot" at doing a "much bigger maybe deal, maybe not deal".

His comments come fewer than three weeks before he faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether or not to renew the agreement's prescribed sanctions relief for Iran.

Under US law, the president is required to renew the waiver on sanctions every 120 days. Trump last issued a waiver in January, but a White House statement said he would not do so again unless an agreement was reached between the US and Europe to strengthen the deal.

"Either fix the deal's disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw," Trump said on January 12.

However, Christopher Ford, the US' non-proliferation envoy, said on Wednesday that Washington is not seeking to renegotiate JCPOA, but instead form an entirely new agreement.

"We are not aiming to renegotiate the JCPOA or reopen it or change its terms," Ford told reporters at a nuclear-non proliferation conference in Geneva, Switzerland, according to Reuters news agency. 

"We are seeking a supplemental agreement that would in some fashion layer upon it a series of additional rules - restrictions, terms, parameters, whatever you want to call it - that help answer these challenges more effectively," Ford said.

International reaction

Earlier on Wednesday, a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Theresa May said fellow JCPOA signatory Britain will coordinate with its international partners to address the "challenges Iran poses in the Middle East", Reuters reported.

"Including those issues that President Macron proposed a new deal might cover," the spokesperson said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been a vocal supporter of maintaining the 2015 deal, is scheduled to arrive in the US on Friday for a state visit which is expected to include talks on the agreement.

Other signatories Russia and China meanwhile are seeking international support for a joint statement defending the existing nuclear deal.

Vladimir Yermakov, Russia's arms control envoy, urged fellow UN member states to support the statement, which calls for "unwavering support" for the JCPOA, on Tuesday at the nuclear-non-proliferation conference.

"The JCPOA is quite a fragile compromise. Any deviation from it ... will inevitably affect the global non-proliferation regime and have powerful negative consequences for regional stability and security," Yermakov said.


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