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Iran vows ‘firm response’ unless Obama stops sanctions renewal

By Reuters - Dec 04,2016 - Last updated at Dec 04,2016

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks while submitting his budget bill for next year in an open session of parliament in Tehran on Sunday (AP photo)

DUBAI — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani demanded on Sunday that Barack Obama block an extension of sanctions passed by the US Congress, saying Tehran would otherwise “firmly respond”.

In a speech to parliament, Rouhani denounced legislation passed by the US Congress to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for 10 years as a violation of Tehran’s nuclear deal with six major powers. The deal curbs Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international financial sanctions.

“America’s president is obliged to exercise his authority by preventing its approval and particularly its implementation... and if this gross violation is carried out, we will firmly respond,” Rouhani said in the speech, carried live by state television.

President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law, the White House said on Friday.

The US Congress move was a blow to Rouhani, a pragmatist who engineered the diplomatic opening to the West that led to the nuclear deal.

US officials have said the ISA renewal would not infringe the nuclear agreement. US lawmakers have also said the ISA extension would make it easier for sanctions to be quickly reimposed if Iran contravened the nuclear deal.

On Sunday, 264 lawmakers in Iran’s 290-seat parliament issued a statement calling on the government to implement counter measures, including relaunching nuclear enrichment halted under the atomic deal, the official news agency IRNA reported.

The diplomatic thaw between Washington and Tehran over the past two years looks in jeopardy with US President-elect Donald Trump taking office next month. He said during his election campaign that he would scrap the nuclear agreement.

Last month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the extension would be viewed in Tehran as a breach of the nuclear accord and threatened retaliation.

 

Khamenei and his hardline loyalists have criticised the deal and blamed Rouhani for his government’s failure to deliver swift improvements in living standards since sanctions were lifted in January. 

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