World

US nuke deal with Iran to remain

WASHINGTON Mr Donald Trump backed away from a campaign promise to scrap a major nuclear security deal with Iran yesterday, with officials announcing the agreement and related sanctions relief will stay in place for now.

Under the terms of the agreement, Teheran scaled back production of nuke-making material in return for massive sanctions relief.

The Trump administration faced a new congressional deadline on Monday to say whether Iran has curbed its nuclear weapons programme in line with the accord.

"The conditions," according to one official whom the White House would not name publicly, "have been met, based on information available to the United States".

The 2015 agreement rests on a series of technical benchmarks, and was seen in Washington as a way of avoiding military action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state.

But it has not relieved tensions between Teheran and Washington, which continue to clash, particularly over conflicts in the Middle East, like in Syria and Yemen, where Iran-backed militias hold clout.

During his election campaign, Mr Trump denounced the Obama-era deal, promising to renegotiate it and vowing to get tough on Iran.

He has now twice affirmed Iran's compliance since taking office - effectively keeping the deal in place.

But the White House took pains to stress it was not going soft on Iran, pointing to new non-nuclear sanctions and stricter implementation of the deal.

An official added: "We do expect that we will be implementing new sanctions" that pertain to Iran's ballistic missile programme and fast boat programme.

"Iran remains one of the most dangerous threats to US interests and regional stability," the official said.

A steely view of Iran binds Trump's national security team, which at times appear to have little else in common. - AFP

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