President Donald Trump has suggested that the United States will walk away from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers if it deems that the UN’s atomic agency is not tough enough in monitoring it.
"We will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal," Trump said on September 18 in a message to an annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna that was read by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
"The United States...strongly encourages the IAEA to exercise its full authorities to verify Iran's adherence to each and every nuclear-related commitment under the nuclear agreement," he added.
U.S. and UN watchdogs monitoring compliance have found Iran has adhered to the accord, which eased international economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.
However, the Trump administration has frequently charged that Tehran breaks the "spirit" of the deal, including by continuing to test-launch ballistic missiles and rockets capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
It has also lobbied for tougher nuclear inspections in Iran, including military sites.
But the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, called on the IAEA, which is monitoring the nuclear accord, to resist what he called Washington's "unacceptable demands."
Asserting that Iran is fully complying with terms of the accord, Salehi told the Vienna meeting that Washington’s “overtly hostile attitude and actual foot-dragging policies and measures" are "aimed at undermining the nuclear deal."
IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano, who was approved for another four-year term in office on September 18, said that the commitments undertaken by Iran under the nuclear deal “are being implemented.”
“Iran is now subject to the world's most robust nuclear verification regime," he claimed.
The IAEA meeting comes as about 130 world leaders are gathering in New York to attend this year's General Assembly debate session.
Ahead of the opening of the assembly, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian gave a staunch defense of the Iran nuclear deal, saying, "It is essential to maintain it to avoid proliferation."
"In this period when we see the risks with North Korea, we must maintain this line," Le Drian told reporters in New York. "Even if we could complement the accord for after 2025."
French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were expected to raise the deal with Iran when they meet with Trump later on September 18. Netanyahu is pushing for the accord’s demise.
The French president will meet with Iranian President Hassan Rohani after Trump to tell him that Tehran must play its role in not stoking American anger through its activities in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, a French presidential source was quoted as saying.
On September 17, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that his country would react strongly to any "wrong move" by the United States regarding the nuclear accord.
"Today, despite all the commitments and discussions in the [nuclear] negotiations, America's attitude toward these negotiations and their outcome is completely unjust and amounts to bullying," state-controlled media quoted Khamenei as saying in a speech to Iranian military graduates.
The comments came after the U.S. administration announced last week that it will continue to waive sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear agreement, while imposing new penalties on several individuals and entities over Tehran’s ballistic-missile program.
"Waiving some of those sanctions should not be seen as an indication of President Trump or his administration's position on the [nuclear deal], nor is the waiver giving the Iranian regime a pass on its broad range of malign behavior," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on September 14.
Speaking to reporters on the same day, Trump echoed earlier criticism of the accord, describing it as “one of the worst deals I have ever seen” and saying that Iran is violating "the spirit" of the nuclear deal.
Under U.S. law, the sanctions can be waived for a maximum of 120 days, meaning the U.S. government must review the situation every four months.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani left on September 17 for the UN General Assembly in New York, where he is expected to hold talks on the nuclear deal.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa