Donald Trump urged by top advisers to waive Iran sanctions, says official

 Trump speaks during a press conference with Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Trump speaks during a press conference with Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Donald Trump is being urged by some top advisers not to bring back US economic sanctions on Iran this week, a move by the president that would effectively end a 2015 deal to limit Teheran's nuclear ambitions.

A senior administration official told Reuters on Wednesday (Jan 10) that Trump's top advisers were recommending that he not reimpose sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the agreement between Iran, the United States and other world powers.

But Trump, who has previously vowed to scrap the nuclear pact, is privately expressing reluctance to heed the advisers, the official said.

The US Congress requires the president to decide periodically whether to certify Iran's compliance with the deal and issue a waiver to allow US sanctions on Iran to remain suspended. The next deadline is Friday.

Trump will seek to make a final decision on the sanctions during a meeting with national security aides on Thursday, a senior administration official told Reuters.

If Trump did waive the sanctions, the official said, the administration would nevertheless impose new, targeted measure on Iranian businesses and people.

Another US official said Trump was expected by some officials to renew the sanctions waivers but stressed that no final decision had been made.

Trump has gnashed his teeth at having to waive the sanctions again, believing his predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama, negotiated a bad deal for the United States in agreeing to the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Hailed by Obama as key to stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb, the deal lifted economic sanctions in exchange for Teheran limiting its nuclear ambitions. It was also signed by China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union.

Iran says its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes. It has said it will stick to the accord as long as the other signatories respect it, but will "shred" the deal if Washington pulls out.

Trump in October chose not to certify that Teheran is complying with the deal and warned he might ultimately terminate it. He accused Iran of "not living up to the spirit" of the nuclear agreement even though the International Atomic Energy Agency says Teheran is in fact in compliance.

The first official said a decision not to waive the sanctions would leave the United States in violation of the agreement.

"You either waive the sanctions or you don't and if you don't you're in breach of the JCPOA," the official said.

Trump and his top advisers have been negotiating with US lawmakers on Capitol Hill to try to change sanctions legislation so that he does not face a deadline on whether to recertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal every 90 days.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker has been working on amending a US law to include "trigger points" that if crossed by Iran would automatically bring back US sanctions.

The trigger points would address strengthening nuclear inspections, Iran's ballistic missile programme and eliminate the deal's "sunset clauses" under which some of the restrictions on Iran's nuclear programme expire over time.