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WASHINGTON: The Trump administration certified to Congress on Wednesday that Iran was complying with the terms of the nuclear deal concluded by its predecessors.

The nuclear agreement, finalised in July 2015, requires Iran to roll back its nuclear programme and give up its alleged pursuit to acquire atomic weapons. In return, the United States and the European Union agreed to lift the sanctions that had crippled the country’s economy.

The agreement also requires the US president to send an annual certificate to Congress stating that Iran was complying with the deal.

But Wednesday’s unexpectedly positive assessment of the nuclear agreement contrasted sharply with Donald Trump’s anti-Iran rhetoric during the election campaign last year.

In those rallies, Mr Trump not only used to criticise president Barack Obama for signing a pact with America’s enemy but also vowed to trash the document and renegotiate a much better deal.

The certification, sent to Speaker of the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening, was the first under this agreement as the Obama administration had completed its tenure before the stipulated date.

The letter requires Iran to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent and significantly scale back its number of installed centrifuges.

But in an apparent balancing act aimed at satisfying those conservative supporters who voted for Mr Trump’s strong anti-Iran election platform, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also said the US still had questions about Tehran’s alleged support for terrorism.

“Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods. President Donald Trump has directed a National Security Council-led inter-agency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States,” Mr Tillerson said.

“When the interagency review is completed, the administration looks forward to working with Congress on this issue,” he added.

When Iran tested ballistic missiles in February, then US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said the administration was putting Iran “on notice”, but he did not say what steps it would take.

The media, however, reported that the Trump administration could impose fresh sanctions against Iran. Tehran reacted to these threats, saying that it would rescind the deal if fresh sanctions were imposed.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2017