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Iran Wants US to Observe Nuclear Deal Before New Talks

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif holds a lecture at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, Aug. 21, 2019.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says if the United States wants to engage in negotiations, it must observe the 2015 agreement that limited Iran's nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

Speaking Thursday during a visit to Malaysia, Zarif accused the United States of "engaging in economic terrorism against the Iranian people."

He pointed to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 deal, which Iran agreed to after two years of talks with the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia, Germany and the European Union.

"We did not leave that mechanism. We are still sitting around the table with five other countries and the EU. The United States was the sixth country, which decided to leave," Zarif said. "So if it wants to come back to the room, there is a ticket that they need to purchase, and that ticket is to observe the agreement."

FILE - President Donald Trump speaks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2019.
FILE - President Donald Trump speaks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2019.

Trump has been a sharp critic of the nuclear deal, saying it was too friendly to Iran and left it with too easy of a potential path to developing nuclear weapons. Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

Trump said earlier this week that in new negotiations his administration would be focused on not only banning Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but also place limits on its ballistic missile program, which is not included in the 2015 agreement. He also wants the measures to be in place for longer than the 10-year period called for in the original deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said if new talks are to take place, Trump must "take the first step" and lift economic sanctions against Iran.

The two countries do not have diplomatic relations, and as they stake out their positions with public statements both have said this week they are not looking to ratchet up tensions.

"We are not seeking conflict with Iran," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

That followed Zarif's comments Tuesday stating that while Iran is not seeking to intensify disagreements with the United States, Iran believes "every nation should be allowed to exercise its own rights under international law."