Donald Trump says he has made decision on Iran deal, declines to say what it is

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US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he has made a decision on whether or not to pull the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, but he declined to say what it was.
Trump looks up during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York, Sept 20, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday (Sept 20) that he had made his decision on whether the United States will remain in the 2015 Iran nuclear pact but declined to reveal it as Iran vowed not to be the first to violate the accord.

"I have decided," Trump told reporters when asked if he had made up his mind after having criticised the accord between Iran and world powers under which Teheran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

In a pugnacious speech on Tuesday at the UN General Assembly, Trump described the deal as "an embarrassment" and accused Iran of exporting "violence, bloodshed and chaos."

Responding in his own address before the annual gathering of world leaders, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would not be intimidated by threats even as he promised to stick with the nuclear accord.

"I declare before you that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement," Rouhani said. He said Iran would respond "decisively and resolutely" to a violation of the accord by any party.

"It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by 'rogue' newcomers to the world of politics: the world will have lost a great opportunity," Rouhani said in a slight to businessman Trump, who on Tuesday described Iran as a "rogue" state.

US officials have sent mixed signals about the nuclear agreement hammered out between Iran and six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - under which Teheran agreed to restrict its nuclear programme in return for western countries loosening economic sanctions.

On Wednesday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Trump's speech indicated his unhappiness but not a decision to abandon the accord.

"It's not a clear signal that he plans to withdraw. What it is, is a clear signal that he's not happy with the deal," Haley, told CBS News in an interview.

Trump hinted in his speech on Tuesday that he may not recertify the agreement, negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

"I don't think you've heard the last of it," he said.

The US president must decide by Oct 15 whether to certify that Iran is complying with the pact, a decision that could sink the deal. If he does not, the US Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the accord.

The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards earlier said the United States should experience "painful responses" following Trump's harsh criticism.

"Taking a definitive stand against Trump is only the beginning of the path," said General Mohammad Ali Jafari, according to Sepah News, the news site of the Revolutionary Guards. "What is strategically important is that America witnesses more painful responses in the actions, behaviour and decisions that Iran takes in the coming months."

The prospect of Washington reneging on the agreement has worried some US partners that helped negotiate it, especially as the world grapples with another nuclear crisis, North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile development.

French President Emmanuel Macron said it would be a mistake to pull out of the pact. "According to me we have to keep the 2015 agreement because it was a good one," Macron told reporters at the United Nations.

Russia is concerned by Trump questioning the Iran nuclear deal, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian reporters at the United Nations in comments published by his ministry on Wednesday.

"It's extremely worrying," Lavrov said. "We will defend this document, this consensus, which was met with relief by the entire international community and genuinely strengthened both regional and international security."

Lavrov, referring to Trump's speech, said that "if you simply condemn and threaten, then we're going to antagonise countries over whom we want to exert influence."

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