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Iran nuclear deal is in US' best interests, says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Iran nuclear deal is in US best interests, says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Washington: Staying in the Iranian nuclear deal is in the best interest of the US, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday said, noting that President Donald Trump also agrees with this.

In a hard-hitting speech from the White House on Friday, Trump condemned Iran as a "fanatical regime" and said it has "committed multiple violations" of the nuclear deal which among other things allows Tehran to continue and advance its nuclear weapons programme.

Trump announced that he would not continue to certify the agreement to Congress, but stopped short of immediately cancelling US participation in the deal and left its fate in the hands of Congress.

"I do agree with that. And I think the president does as well," Tillerson told CNN when asked about a recent statement of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis that he believed that staying in the agreement was in the best interests of the US.

"That's why he (Trump) took the decision, let's see if we cannot address the flaws in the agreement by staying within the agreement, working with the other signatories, working with our European friends and allies within the agreement," he said.

Tillerson alleged that there have been a number of technical violations of the Iranian nuclear deal — carrying too much inventory of heavy water, having materials that are used to construct high —speed centrifuges.

"Under the agreement, and this is part of the weaknesses and the flaws, Iran has a significant period of time to remedy those violations. So they have remedied the violations, which then brings them back into technical compliance," he said, adding that demonstrated pattern of always walking right up against the edges of the agreement are what gives some concern as to how far Iran might be willing to go to test the limits from its side of the agreement.

"Our response to that has been to work with the other parties and demand that we be much more demanding of the enforcement of the agreement, much more demanding inspections, much more demanding disclosures. And that's what we are shifting since we have taken our seat at the table of the joint commission," the top American diplomat said.

Tillerson said that the president wants a more comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran in its totality.

"For too long, and certainly the last administration really defined the Iranian relationship around this nuclear agreement. This nuclear agreement is flawed. It has a number of weaknesses in it," he said.

The president said throughout his campaign even, that he will either reform the agreement, either fix these flaws, or will have to have a different agreement entirely. His decision around the new policy is consistent with that, he said.

"Now we want to deal with the nuclear agreement's weaknesses, but we really need to deal with a much broader array of threats that Iran poses to the region, our friends and allies, and, therefore, threats that they pose to our own national security," he said.

The Iranian policy has three components, Tillerson said.

There is the nuclear agreement, which the US is going to undertake an effort to see if they cannot address the many flaws in the agreement, working with partners.

"It may be a secondary agreement. Maybe it's not within the existing agreement, but we may undertake a secondary agreement," he said, adding that there's a much broader array from threats from Iran, its ballistic programmes, its support of terrorist groups in the region, Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas.

These are all very threatening organisations, he said.

The third element of this policy is about the regime in Iran, this revolutionary regime that, ever since it came to power, has been intent on killing and harming Americans and harming others in the region.

"We do not hold the Iranian people accountable for that. So, our effort is to support the moderate voices in Iran, support their cries for democracy and freedom, in the hope that, one day, the Iranian people will retake control of the government of Iran and restore it to its rich history of the past, reintegrate, and become a fruitful member in trade, commerce in the region," Tillerson added.

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