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Rouhani: Iran won't rework nuke deal if sanctions continue

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at the UN

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Don Emmert

UNITED NATIONS — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that his administration would not sit down to rework the terms of the international pact that regulates the country’s use of nuclear power as long as crippling U.S.-imposed economic sanctions are in place.

Speaking a day after President Donald Trump accused Iran of “bloodlust” and saying sanctions against Iran would likely be tightened — especially in the wake of allegations that Iran had attacked oil fields in Saudi Arabia — Rouhani spent much of his 22-minute address criticizing U.S. intervention in the Middle East but stating that Iran is feeling the pinch of economic pressure.

“I hail from a country that has resisted the most merciless economic terrorism and has defended its rights to independence and science and technology development,” Rouhani said during an address at the UN General Assembly’s General Debate. “The U.S. government, while imposing extraterritorial sanctions and threats against other nations, has made a lot of effort to deprive Iran from the advantages of participating in the global economy and has resorted to international piracy by misusing the international banking system … Our response to any negotiations under sanctions is negative.”

Rouhani did not address the accusations swirling around the Sept. 14 drone and missile attacks on oil fields in Saudi Arabia, one of Iran’s adversaries, but focused on the fallout from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear deal that placed Iran’s nuclear activities under close international scrutiny.

That agreement with Iran was brokered during the tenure of President Barack Obama, and its signatories include the United States, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the European Union. But Trump decided to withdraw from it in May 2018, saying it did not adequately prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

After withdrawal, the United States reimposed U.S. sanctions that had been lifted as a condition for Iran’s participation in the agreement. The measures target 700 individuals and entities and affect energy, shipping and shipbuilding, and financial sectors. They also bar “a U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entity from knowingly engaging in any transaction, directly or indirectly” with Iran or anyone under its jurisdiction.

Companies and governments that do business with Iranian entities subject to sanctions can themselves be subject to sanctions, such as Zhuhai Zhenrong, a Chinese company that the United States last July accused of violating the sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.

Rouhani called Trump’s maneuver a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which brought the JCPOA into force and lifted the Security Council’s nuclear-related sanctions against Iran. He said he would defy the pressure and indicated that Iran could not follow the terms of the deal unless the European powers could shield it from the effects of the U.S. sanctions.

“We have never surrendered to foreign aggression and imposition,” he said. “The government and people of Iran have remained steadfast against the harshest sanctions in the past one-and-a-half years, and will never negotiate with an enemy that seeks to make Iran surrender with the weapon of poverty, pressure and sanctions.”

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