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World Digests UN General Assembly, Trump's Tough Talk on Iran, China


Members of the United Nations Security Council gather for a meeting on North Korea, Sept. 27, 2018, at the United Nations in New York.

As global leaders digest the fallout from a stormy United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, China has strongly denied accusations from President Donald Trump that it is trying to interfere in the U.S. midterm elections next month.

Meanwhile the diplomatic tussle has intensified between the United States and other signatories over the future of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as the U.S. prepares to hit Tehran with fresh sanctions.

Trump’s accusations against China took many at the U.N. by surprise. In a news conference Wednesday evening, the president was asked by reporters what evidence he had to support his claim.

“It will come out. I can’t tell you now. But it came, it didn’t come out of nowhere,” he said.

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China, not Russia?

Beijing strongly denies trying to influence U.S. politics, and many in China question why President Trump did not mention the investigation into Russian meddling, says analyst and professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“It would appear that the allegation that Donald Trump made against China, when he deliberately not mentioned about Russia, really was to distract attention domestically in the United States. So the Chinese are rather upset about it. And I would expect that Putin in Russia is rather pleased about it,” Tsang told VOA.

Trump’s accusation, taken alongside the ramping up of trade tariffs, marks a significant escalation of tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“The real issue for China is the status and the standing of President Xi and therefore the Communist Party in the country as a whole. President Xi cannot afford and therefore will not agree to appearing to be weak in front of an American onslaught like that,” Tsang said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2018, at U.N. headquarters.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2018, at U.N. headquarters.

Iran sanctions

Meanwhile the diplomatic tussle intensified at the United Nations between the United States and other signatories over the future of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as the U.S. prepares to hit Tehran with fresh sanctions. Chairing a U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday, President Trump set his sights firmly on Iran, accusing it of spreading “chaos, death and destruction.” Middle East analyst Aziz Alghashian of the University of Essex says Trump’s words are aimed at others in the region.

“I think he is trying to appease the allies that he has in the region, the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), Saudi Arabia and Israel. And I think that is very important for him because he tried to repatch the bad relations, or the tense relations that the allies had with Obama.”

The United States pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May. The five remaining signatories, the U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia, want to create an alternative payment system to bypass U.S. sanctions. At a press conference Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reacted with anger to those plans.

“By sustaining revenues to the regime you are solidifying Iran’s ranking as the No. 1 state sponsor of terror,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during the United Against Nuclear Iran Summit on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during the United Against Nuclear Iran Summit on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2018.

At the U.N. Wednesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani praised efforts to keep the nuclear deal alive.

“Until such time when we keep reaping the benefits promised within that agreement for our nation and our people, we will remain in the agreement. Should the situation change, we have other paths and other solutions,” President Rouhani told reporters in New York.

Analyst Aziz Alghashian believes Europe has little room for maneuver.

“There’s a lot of European companies that rely on the American economy, so they must take that into account as well when the sanctions hit,” Alghashian said.

Those new sanctions are set to hit in November. President Trump has pledged that they will be “tougher than ever before.”

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