Iran rejects any change to nuclear deal, vows to push ahead with missile program

Facing reports EU is considering new sanctions over non-nuclear activities, top security leader warns Tehran won’t accept any ‘new measure’

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2017. (Ebrahim Noroozi/ AP/ File)
Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2017. (Ebrahim Noroozi/ AP/ File)

Iran will not accept any changes to its nuclear deal with world powers, a senior official insisted Saturday, after the United States said it was seeking a “supplemental” accord with European powers.

“We will not accept any changes, any interpretation, or new measure aimed at limiting” the 2015 deal between Iran and major powers, said Ali Shamkhani, in remarks carried by the ISNA news agency.

Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, also warned European countries “against the temptation of playing at the same game as the Americans.”

“The ballistic program of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has a defensive nature, will steadfastly continue,” said Shamkhani, who is a close ally of supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

Earlier, a senior Iranian official warned the EU that any new, non-nuclear sanctions imposed in an effort to appease the Trump administration would be a “big mistake,” and said the move would directly affect the nuclear deal.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi speaking in Tehran, Iran, on October 22, 2013. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

“In case some European countries are following steps to put non-nuclear sanctions against Iran in order to please the American president, they will be making a big mistake, and they will see the direct result of that on the nuclear deal,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying in state-run media, according to the Reuters news agency.

Araqchi’s comments came in response to a Friday Reuters report that Germany, the UK, and France are supporting fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program, as well as its actions in Syria, in an effort to stop the US from exiting the nuclear deal.

On Friday senior US State Department official Brian Hook said that President Donald Trump wanted to reach a “supplemental” deal with the European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal.

This would cover Iran’s ballistic missile program, its regional activities, the expiration of parts of the nuclear deal in the mid-2020s, and tighter UN inspections, Hook said.

“We are taking things one week at a time, we are having very good discussions in London, Paris, and Berlin,” Hook, recently ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s chief of strategy, said.

“There is a lot we agree on and where we disagree we are working to bridge our differences,” he said in Vienna.

US President Donald Trump speaks on steel and aluminum tariffs during a meeting with industry leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House, on March 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

US President Donald Trump said in January that the 2015 deal between Iran and major powers must be “fixed” by May 12 or the United States will walk away, likely ending the accord.

Reuters reported that a confidential document circulated to EU members to check whether they would agree to actions targeting certain “militias and commanders,” in a bid to save the deal from collapse.

The 2015 accord between Iran and the US, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany curtailed Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iran, which, according to the UN atomic watchdog, has been abiding by the deal since it came into force in January 2016, has ruled out any changes to the agreement.

Trump’s decision this week to replace Tillerson with Mike Pompeo as secretary of state has been widely seen as another bad omen for the agreement. Tillerson and his erstwhile cabinet ally Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had urged Trump to listen to the Europeans to preserve the agreement. Pompeo, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, is seen as taking a harder line on Iran.

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