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Trump and Tillerson pile on the pressure over Iran nuclear deal

US SECRETARY of State Rex Tillerson has said that changes are needed to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement before the Trump administration will agree to continue supporting the deal, writes Nassir Shirkhani.

The nuclear deal ended years of sanctions against Iran, clearing hurdles to the participation of international oil companies in investing in Iran’s upstream sector.

Tillerson said Washington was particularly concerned about the deal's "sunset" clauses, that allow restrictions put on Iranian nuclear activities such as uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief to expire after 10 years in 2025.

He described the sunset clauses as "the most glaring flaw" in the deal.

"It's not a stiff enough agreement. It doesn't slow their programme enough," he said. "We can almost start the countdown clock as to when they will resume their nuclear weapons capability."

"If we're going to stick with the Iran deal there has to be changes made to it. The sunset provision simply is not a sensible way forward.

"It's just simply... kicking the can down the road again for someone in the future to have to deal with," Tillerson told Fox News.

Tillerson's remarks were made as the US administration faces a 15 October deadline for deciding whether to certify that Tehran is complying with the pact. If it does not, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the deal.

Tillerson said the US will seek the help of allies in Europe that signed onto the deal in trying to persuade Iran to reopen negotiations over the sunset provisions.

"We do need the support of our allies, our European allies and others, to make the case as well to Iran that this deal really needs to be revisited.’’

For his part, Trump this week accused Iran of exporting “violence, bloodshed and chaos”.

“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilising activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear programme,” Trump told the annual United Nations General Assembly.

He saved his harshest words for the nuclear pact struck by Iran and six major world powers under which Tehran agreed to restrict its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.

“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me,” Trump said. In contrast, French President Emmanuel Macron praised the agreement, saying it was inconceivable to abandon it.

“Renouncing it would be a grave error, not respecting it would be irresponsible, because it is a good accord that is essential to peace at a time where the risk of an infernal conflagration cannot be excluded,” Macron told the UN.

France's Total was the first major international player to sign a new multi-billion-dollar deal to develop Iran's gas reserves this year. German and Italian companies have also rushed to invest in Iran following the nuclear pact.

Iran responded angrily to Trump’s remarks.

“Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times — not the 21st Century UN — (it is) unworthy of a reply,” Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s lead negotiator for the nuclear agreement, said.