Iran’s President: U.S. ‘Trampled Upon’ Nuclear Accord

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi holds up a picture of Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. attack, as he addresses the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York City, Wednesday. (REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iran’s President said Wednesday that the U.S. “trampled upon” Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers in a speech to world leaders at the United Nations.

Ebrahim Raisi addressed the U.N. General Assembly as talks to revive the nuclear deal approached a take-it-or-leave-it moment. Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal in 2018 has led Tehran to abandon over time every limitation the accord imposed on its nuclear enrichment.

European Union officials have warned the window for securing a deal is about to close. The 2015 agreement that was brokered under the Obama administration placed curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which Tehran insists it has never received.

“America trampled upon the nuclear accord,” said Raisi, who was sworn in as president only a year ago. His speech marks the first time he has taken the podium at the U.N. in his role as president. Last year, he delivered remarks to the assembly virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Wearing a traditional black turban identified with Shiite clerics, Raisi also told the gathered leaders that Iran wants to have “extensive relations with all our neighbors” — an apparent reference to foe Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the region.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have held a number of direct talks since U.S. President Joe Biden took office, though tensions remain high between the two. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates recent reopened its embassy in Tehran and sent an ambassador there.

Raisi also deplored sanctions imposed on Iran, calling them a “punishment on the people of Iran.”

He blasted what he said was lopsided scrutiny of Iran’s nuclear activities while other nations’ nuclear programs remain secret, a reference to Israel.

Western sanctions have eaten away at Iran’s reserves and exacerbated inflation in the country, which hit 40% last year. Over the summer, Iran’s currency hit its lowest level ever against the U.S. dollar.

Raisi’s speech comes at a politically sensitive time in Iran. Protesters have clashed with police in recent days in cities across the country, including the capital, over the death of a 22-year-old woman who was being held by the morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strictly enforced dress code.

Raisi has offered condolences to the woman’s family and promised an investigation, while other Iranian officials have accused unnamed foreign countries of seizing on the incident to foment unrest. Her death has ignited long-simmering anger among many Iranians, particularly young people, at the country’s ruling clerics.

Raisi, who was elected last year in a vote that saw low turnout and several candidates disqualified, has been described as a protégé of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In 2019, Raisi was sanctioned by the United States in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, a little over a decade after the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the country’s shah and ushered in its current theocratic-led system.

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