JERUSALEM/BRUSSELS: US Vice President Mike Pence vowed on Monday in an address to the Israeli parliament that Washington will never allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

“I have a solemn promise to Israel, to all the Middle East and to the world — the United States of America will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Pence said to applause from Israeli MPs.

The 2015 deal that was meant to curb Iran’s nuclear capabilities was fiercely opposed by Israel, but backed by then US president Barack Obama.

His successor Donald Trump has fiercely criticised the agreement, accusing Tehran of not sticking to it and saying it still allows the Islamic republic to support terrorist organisations across the globe — including Israel’s longstanding enemies.

Earlier this month Trump again waived nuclear-related sanctions — as required every few months to stay in the agreement — but demanded European partners work with Washington to improve the terms of the deal.

“The Iran nuclear deal is a disaster and the United States of America will no longer certify this ill-conceived agreement,” Pence said.

“Unless the Iran nuclear deal is fixed President Trump has said the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately.” The other parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union — have all said it is working and that Iran is complying fully with its commitments.

France says Iran not respecting UN resolution

France’s foreign minister accused Iran on Monday of not respecting part of a UN resolution that calls on Tehran to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.

Speaking on arrival at a European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Jean-Yves Le Drian also said the 28 ministers would reiterate their concerns over Iran’s activities in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria, which he described as destabilising.

“We will also have the opportunity of underlining our firmness on Iran’s compliance with United Nations Resolution 2231, which limits access to ballistic capacity and which Iran does not respect,” Le Drian said.

Under the UN resolution enshrining the 2015 nuclear deal with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, Iran is “called upon” to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to 8 years. Some states say this phrasing does not make it an obligatory commitment.

Iran has repeatedly said its missile programme is purely defensive and denied the missiles are designed to carry nuclear warheads. But Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman on Monday dismissed the suggestion of talks on either issue and said Iran had shown it “would not change course under pressure.” “If there is such a quote (from the French foreign minister) that we held talks, we deny it. We have not had any negotiations about our missile and defence capabilities and will not talk about these issues with others,” Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency on Monday.

“We should surely discuss Iran’s influence in the region because it has been a positive one and everyone has benefited from it. Without Iran’s influence, terrorists (would have) captured Damascus and Baghdad,” Qasemi said.

Iran’s chief nuclear envoy Abbas Araqchi was quoted on Iranian media as rejecting the European strategy.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2018

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