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US reaffirms Iran nuclear agreement

11 Apr 2017, 6.27 pm GMT

US reaffirms Iran nuclear agreement

Washington, 11 April (Argus) — The US administration's new focus on crises in Syria and North Korea is highlighting a full retreat from President Donald Trump's pledge to rescind the nuclear agreement his predecessor signed with Iran.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson today reaffirmed support for the multilateral agreement — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — that lifted restrictions on crude exports from Iran in January 2016. The EU, Russia and China also are parties to the agreement.

The G7 foreign ministers, meeting in Lucca, Italy, in a statement hailed the agreement's "important contribution to the non-proliferation regime." Implementation of the agreement will "build confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively peaceful in nature," the ministers said.

The US' approach to Iran so far has not departed greatly from the path former president Barack Obama's administration paved following the lifting of the nuclear-related sanctions, even though Trump still denounces the deal. Trump imposed new sanctions on Iran following tests of ballistic missiles, just like his predecessor did. And the Pentagon continues to view Iran as a threat to US interests in the Middle East, including the freedom of navigation in the straits of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb.

Iran since the lifting of the nuclear-related sanctions increased production by more than 900,000 b/d to 3.8mn b/d in February.

Senior White House officials contend that Iran's missile tests are evidence of a covert nuclear weapons program. Iran says its program is defensive in nature.

The US administration promised to push for a stronger international response to the missile tests than Obama did. But today's G7 statement only expresses "deep regret" over the tests.

The need to coordinate sanctions programs with the EU is likely a key driver in the new administration's approach. EU officials also persuaded US senators to delay advancing a widely supported bill to expand the scope of sanctions on Iran over the missile tests. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will wait until after the Iranian presidential election on 19 May to schedule a vote on the bill, committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) said.

The G7 statement calls on Russia and Iran, as allies of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime, to ensure Syria's compliance with the UN convention banning the use of chemical weapons. But the US is directing the bulk of its criticism over Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians at Russia.

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