Iran FM calls U.S. unreliable after extension of sanctions, vows to retaliate


javad zarifA U.S. Senate vote to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for 10 years shows the world that Washington cannot be relied upon to act on its commitments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday.

Iran has vowed to retaliate against the ISA extension, passed unanimously on Thursday, saying it violated last year’s agreement with six major powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting of international financial sanctions.

“To the world community, the extension of sanctions against Iran shows the unreliability of the American government,” state broadcaster IRIB quoted Zarif as saying on arriving in India for an official visit. “America is acting against its commitment.”

U.S. officials said the ISA renewal would not infringe the nuclear agreement. U.S. lawmakers have also said the ISA extension would make it easier for sanctions to be quickly reimposed if Iran contravened the nuclear deal..

But Iran’s nuclear energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, who played a central role in reaching the nuclear deal, described the extension as a “clear violation” if implemented.

The diplomatic thaw between Washington and Tehran over the past two years looks in jeopardy with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump taking office next month. He said during his election campaign that he would scrap the nuclear agreement.

The U.S. Senate vote was a blow to pragmatist Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who engineered the diplomatic opening to the West that led to the nuclear deal.

“The (nuclear accord) is the result of efforts by seven countries, and one country should not be allowed to weaken it,” state news agency IRNA on Saturday reported Rouhani as saying.

Last month, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the extension would be viewed in Tehran as a breach of the nuclear accord and threatened retaliation.

Behrouz Nemati, spokesman for parliament’s presiding board, was quoted by state television on Saturday as saying MPs would introduce a measure on Sunday demanding the government “return to initial (nuclear) enrichment conditions” before the deal.

Another group of lawmakers plan to introduce a bill on Sunday to ban “the purchase of U.S. consumer goods including animal and agricultural products”, IRIB reported.

Such a bill could also endanger deals including U.S. planemaker Boeing’s tentative accord to sell passenger jets to Iran, upgrading a fleet long deteriorating due to sanctions.

Khamenei and his hardline loyalists have criticized the deal and blamed Rouhani for its failure to deliver swift improvements in living standards since sanctions were lifted in January.