Officials: US expected to say Iran still abiding nuke deal

AP , Friday 14 Jul 2017

The Trump administration is expected to tell Congress early next week that Iran is still complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, three U.S. officials said Thursday, even as a broader review of Iran policy ordered by President Donald Trump drags on.

Under the deal negotiated by President Barack Obama and world powers, the administration must certify to Congress every three months whether Iran is complying with an elaborate set of terms designed to limit its nuclear program. The Trump administration issued its first certification in April and faces a Monday deadline to certify that Iran is still complying.

Though officials cautioned that Trump could still change his mind, they said the administration was preparing to say Iran is indeed complying but that the certification does not prejudge the outcome of Trump's Iran policy review. The officials weren't authorized to discuss the decision publicly and requested anonymity.

The State Department would not confirm ahead of the Monday deadline what action the administration will take. But State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that until the Iran review is completed, the U.S. will continue upholding its side of the agreement: relief from nuclear sanctions.

"That has not changed," Nauert said. "We'll ensure that Iran is held strictly accountable to its requirements."

Critics of the deal have pointed to minor infractions as justification for the U.S. to say Iran is not complying. But the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. agency that is monitoring the nuclear deal, has said Iran is broadly in compliance.

As a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Trump was an outspoken critic of the deal but offered conflicting opinions on whether he would try to scrap it, modify it or keep it in place with more strenuous enforcement. Trump and some top members of his administration remain critical of the deal, but so far, the president has not announced a decision to pull out.

Scuttling the nuclear deal would put further distance between Trump and foreign leaders who are already upset over his move to withdraw the U.S. from the global climate change agreement known as the Paris accord. Other powers that brokered the nuclear deal along with the U.S. have said there's no appetite for renegotiating it.

Despite the sanctions relief, Iran remains on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism for its support of anti-Israel groups and is still subject to non-nuclear sanctions, including for human rights abuses and for its backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

The nuclear deal was sealed in Vienna in July 2015 after 18 months of negotiations led by Secretary of State John Kerry and diplomats from the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France and Russia — and Germany. Under its terms, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program, long suspected of being aimed at developing atomic weapons, in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

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