Trump and Rouhani.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
DUBAI - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday US President-elect Donald Trump cannot unilaterally cancel the nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers including Washington and that talk of renegotiating it was "meaningless."
Trump, who will take office on Friday, has called the July 2015 agreement "the worst deal ever negotiated." He has threatened to either scrap the agreement or seek a better deal.
Under Iran's agreement with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, Tehran agreed to shrink its nuclear program to satisfy the powers that it could not be put to developing atomic bombs. In exchange, Iran received relief from sanctions, most of which were lifted in January 2016.
"The president elect has shown he is not happy about the nuclear deal, calling it the worst deal ever signed. This is only empty talk," Rouhani told a news conference on the anniversary of the removal of sanctions.
Iran Foreign Minister Zarif adresses US committment to nuclear deal (Reuters)
"I don't think he can do much when he goes to the White House," added Rouhani, a moderate who, through the diplomatic opening engineered a thaw in the Islamic Republic's long antagonistic relations with the West.
Rouhani said he was hopeful about the future of the nuclear deal, which has been buttressed by a U.N. Security Council resolution, calling talk about renegotiation "meaningless."
"I am optimistic about the future of the nuclear deal ... (It) is good for the United States, but he (Trump) doesn't understand," said Rouhani, whose remarks were broadcast live on state television.
Rex Tillerson, Trump's nominee for US Secretary of State, said last week that he would recommend a "full review" of the nuclear deal but did not call for an outright rejection.
With Trump's inauguration due on Friday, officials who follow Iran closely have said they are waiting to see what stance Trump takes on the deal, which also lifted international sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Trump has called the agreement, one of the Obama administration's flagship achievements, "the worst deal ever negotiated." He has, however, backed away from the assertion that he wants to "rip up" the deal, saying more recently that he would "police that contract so tough they (the Iranians) don't have a chance."
That raises the question of how he would react if Iran continued to test the deal's boundaries. Twice since the pact was implemented in January Tehran has gone over a 130-tonne limit on its stock of heavy water, prompting limited criticism from the United States.
Iran has also argued that the United States has failed to provide the full sanctions relief called for by the deal, a charge Washington denies. Tehran has, however, stopped short of triggering a dispute-resolution mechanism created by the deal.