Iran Rejects Any Change to Nuclear Deal and Russia Weighs In

Iran Rejects Any Change to Nuclear Deal and Russia Weighs In

Iran on Saturday rejected any modification of its nuclear deal with world powers after U.S. President Donald Trump demanded tough new measures to keep the agreement alive.

Iran "will not accept any amendments in this agreement, be it now or in the future, and it will not allow any other issues to be linked to the JCPOA," the foreign ministry said in a statement, using the 2015 deal's technical name.

Trump again waived nuclear-related sanctions on Friday -- as required every few months to stay in the agreement -- but demanded European partners work with the United States to "fix the deal's disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw."

He said the new deal should curb Iran's missile program and include permanent restrictions on Iran's nuclear plants, removing expiration dates due to kick in after a decade.

But Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the 2015 deal would not be renegotiated.

"JCPOA is not renegotiable: rather than repeating tired rhetoric, U.S. must bring itself into full compliance -- just like Iran," Zarif tweeted immediately after Trump's speech.

The statement from his ministry further criticized new sanctions on 14 individuals announced by the U.S. Treasury on Friday over human rights issues and Iran's missile program.

In particular, placing judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani on the sanctions list "crossed all red lines of conduct in the international community... and the government of the United States will bear responsibility for all the consequences of this hostile move.”

Iran argues that continued U.S. sanctions on non-nuclear areas such as human rights and missile testing have effectively barred Iran from gaining many of the financial benefits expected from the deal.

Zarif has said Trump's aggressive stance on the deal and Iran generally have violated the commitment to "refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran" in the accord.

Similar to the European Security Council members and China, Russia on Saturday said Washington would be making a grave mistake by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, adding that Moscow would work hard to keep the landmark agreement alive.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov criticized remarks by Trump.

"We are gradually coming to the conclusion that an internal decision by the U.S. to leave the (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) has already been made or is close to being made," Ryabkov said in an interview with Interfax news agency.

"This could be one of Washington's big foreign policy mistakes, a big miscalculation in American policy," he said.

Under the hard-won 2015 deal with Russia, the U.S., China, France, Britain, Germany and the EU, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for lifting of a raft of international sanctions.

America's allies see the accord as the best way to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions and a victory for multilateral diplomacy. Tehran categorically denies it is seeking to develop atomic weapons.

But Trump argues that his predecessor Barack Obama gave away too much to Iran in sanctions relief, without forcing the Islamic republic to end its ballistic missile program and support for militant groups.

Ryabkov said Moscow must unite with Europe and China and undertake "intense work" to keep the existing plan intact and decried what he said was a U.S. attempt to strong-arm the situation.

"In what we heard yesterday, I don't see any invitation for Iran to enter dialogue," he said. "This defies the logic of the agreement."

"Russia will do everything in its power to save the agreement," he said.