Iran Nuclear Deal: U.S. Secretary of State Says ‘Significant Issues’ Remain

Washington continues to have “significant issues” with the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said after his first talks with his Iranian counterpart. Tillerson underscored that the talks were “very matter of fact”, and acknowledged Iran was complying with the deal. Wednesday’s talks at the UN, involving all seven parties that negotiated the deal, focused on its implementation.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald Trump described it as an “embarrassment.” But later, Trump told reporters that he had decided what to do about the agreement but would not reveal what he had decided. He has until October 15 to decide whether to certify that Iran is complying with the deal. If he fails to do so, Congress could re-introduce sanctions dropped when the accord was implemented.

The New York Times quoted unnamed administration officials as saying Trump will revisit the deal rather than scrapping it altogether. Tillerson said Trump found the so-called sunset clause, which sees restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme lifted after 2025, unacceptable.

Iran reached the landmark nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of world powers – the U.S., UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany, in 2015. This was the first meeting between Tillerson and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

“It was a good opportunity to meet, shake hands. The tone was very matter of fact. There was no yelling, we didn’t throw shoes at one another,” the U.S. secretary of state said, adding that the two sides saw the agreement very differently.

“The agreement has this very concerning shortcoming that the president has mentioned as well and that is the sunset clause… and that’s something that the president simply finds unacceptable,” he said.

Warning of a repeat of North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, Tillerson said Trump had made it clear he did not want to leave Iran’s resumption of its programme for another administration to deal with.