U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday he has made a decision on whether to pull the United States out of the 2015 international pact curbing Iran's nuclear weapons development.
Trump declined to say what his decision is, but the U.S. rift with Iran took center stage at the United Nations General Assembly, a day after he denounced Tehran as "an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in his speech Wednesday, told the annual gathering of world leaders at the 193-nation organization that Tehran does not tolerate threats from anyone and was unmoved by Trump's complaints. Rouhani called them "ugly, ignorant words."
In an apparent reference to the U.S. leader, Rouhani said "destruction" of the nuclear deal "by 'rogue' newcomers to the world of politics will never impede Iran’s course of progress and advancement.
"Iran won't be the first country to violate the agreement," Rouhani said, "but it will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party. By violating its international commitments, the new U.S. administration only destroys its own credibility for future negotiations."
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a Twitter remark, called Trump's claims on Tuesday an "ignorant hate speech" that belonged "in medieval times — not the 21st-century U.N."
Trump strongly signaled this week he could pull the U.S. out of the pact, calling the deal brokered by former U.S. President Barack Obama and five other world powers — China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — "an embarrassment to the United States." The Trump administration has twice certified that Iran is in compliance with the agreement, but is facing a new assessment deadline in mid-October.
In his maiden U.N. speech, Trump told world leaders, "We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles. And we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into."
Speaking at the Hudson Institute in Washington, General John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, confirmed Wednesday that Iran is operating under the nuclear agreement.
“But at the same time, they are rapidly, rapidly deploying and developing a whole series of ballistic missiles at all ranges,” he added. Hyten said Iran was testing these missiles to “challenge the United States and our allies somewhere down the road.”
Parties to meet
If the U.S. were to withdraw, the deal could collapse. The other signatories to the deal have continued to support it and shown no inclination toward renegotiation.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Fox News, "We do need the support, I think, of our allies, our European allies and others, to make the case as well to Iran that this deal really needs to be revisited."
The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency says its inspectors have found Iran in technical compliance with the restrictions imposed on its nuclear program, while U.S. officials say Tehran's ballistic missile tests and military adventures in the Middle East breach the "spirit" of the deal.
After Rouhani's speech, the parties to the nuclear deal will meet, the first encounter between Tillerson and Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In a Twitter remark Tuesday, Zarif called Trump's Iran remarks an "ignorant hate speech" that belonged "in medieval times - not the 21st-century U.N."
Numerous other world leaders are set to address the General Assembly on Wednesday, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, Italian President Paolo Gentiloni, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko.
Meanwhile, Trump is staying in New York for meetings with other world leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. gathering, meeting with May, Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Jordan's King Abdullah and a group of African leaders.
Trump on North Korea
In his speech Tuesday, Trump vowed to "totally destroy North Korea" if Pyongyang attacks the U.S. or its allies. The U.S. leader spelled out his "America first" agenda that did not reject U.S. involvement in global affairs, but emphasized the "sovereignty" of individual countries.
"In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch," Trump said.
WATCH: Trump on North Korea
Ahead of his Wednesday meetings, Trump attacked his 2016 Democratic presidential challenger, former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for their roles in North Korea's nuclear weapons development.
"After allowing North Korea to research and build Nukes while Secretary of State (Bill C also), Crooked Hillary now criticizes," Trump said on Twitter.
In a second tweet, Trump said, "Big meetings today at the United Nations. So many interesting leaders. America First will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"
After allowing North Korea to research and build Nukes while Secretary of State (Bill C also), Crooked Hillary now criticizes.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2017
Big meetings today at the United Nations. So many interesting leaders. America First will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2017
First lady Melania Trump is speaking at a luncheon for spouses of world leaders. In prepared remarks, she is saying that children are often "hit first and hardest in any country"' when it comes to drug addiction, bullying, poverty, disease, trafficking, illiteracy and hunger.
"We need to step up, come together, and ensure that our children's future is bright," she says.