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Iranian president invites U.S. to renegotiate nuclear deal

Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president, speaks during the UN

Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president, speaks during the UN General Assembly meeting at the United Nations on Tuesday. Credit: Bloomberg/Jeenah Moon

UNITED NATIONS — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani invited President Donald Trump to renegotiate the Iran nuclear accord while criticizing his counterpart’s unilateral approach to international affairs.

Rouhani, who spoke during the UN General Assembly’s General Debate a few hours after Trump singled Iran out as “the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism,” countered that the United States, at least under Trump, does not honor its agreements.

“The government of the United States of America, at least the current administration, seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual,” Rouhani said, referring to Trump’s decision last May to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which monitored Iran’s nuclear activity.

Trump had earlier in the day denounced the plan and, in furtherance of his “America First” paradigm of international relations, defended his administration’s dismissal of an international compact on migration and derided the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes war criminals.

Rouhani noted that the UN Security Council had unanimously approved the Iran nuclear deal, and that the United States, in withdrawing from it last May, had violated "a paramount principle of continuity of state responsibility” because Trump had abandoned a pact hammered out by his predecessor’s administration.

“On what basis and criteria can we enter into an agreement with an administration misbehaving such as this?” he said. “Any talks should be within the framework and in continuation of the JCPOA and Security Council Resolution 2231, and not in a framework of breaching them and reverting to the past.”

He defended Iran’s participation in the plan, adding that the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency had endorsed Iran’s compliance on many occasions.

“United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 is not a piece of paper,” Rouhani said. “We invite you to return to that Council resolution. We invite you to come back to the negotiating table you left. If you dislike the JCPOA because it is the legacy of your domestic political rivals, then we invite you to come ack to the SC resolution . . . Do not engage in imposing sanctions.”

Trump mentioned in his speech that Iran’s leaders “sow chaos, death and destruction” and that the United States would renew the sanctions that had been lifted when the JCPOA went into force in 2015, and that new ones would kick in on Nov. 5.

“Unlawful unilateral sanctions in themselves constitute a form of economic terrorism and breach of the right to development,” Rouhani said.’ ”I state here in clear, unambiguous terms that the United States policy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran has been wrong from the beginning and its approach of resisting the will of the Iranian people as manifested in numerous elections is doomed to failure.”

Rouhani’s 25-minute address focused almost exclusively on responding to Trump’s critique and even defending his country’s record on fighting terrorism, though the United States has long criticized Iran as a supporter of terrorism.

Iran has committed troops to the civil war in Syria in an awkward arrangement where it and the United States espouse commitment to eradicating the Islamic State, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, but from opposite sides of the conflict. Iran supports Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, along with Russia, and the United States and Syrian opposition forces would like to see Assad’s ouster.

Rouhani said Iran’s record of opposing terrorism included opposing al-Qaida before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington and had fought an eight-year war against the Baath Party of then-President Saddam Hussein in Iraq before Hussein’s force invaded Kuwait in 1990. A U.S.-led coalition of forces removed Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Rouhani said the Middle East’s most pressing problem, however, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that Israel would not have the power it has to occupy the lands were it not for the assistance of the United States.

“The passage of time cannot justify occupation,” he said, also faulting Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move roundly criticized as favoring Israel over Palestine while the United States has proffered itself as a neutral broker of the decades-old conflict.

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