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Iran says US extension of sanctions act violates nuclear deal

People walk under a painting of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (R) and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) in Tehran December 6, 2015. Picture taken December 6, 2015

Iran said on Friday the US Senate’s vote to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for 10 years violated the 2015 deal with six major powers that curbed its nuclear programme and threatened to retaliate.

The ISA was first adopted in 1996 to punish investments in Iran‘s energy industry and deter its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The extension was passed unanimously on Thursday.

US officials said the ISA’s renewal would not violate the nuclear agreement between Tehran and six major powers, under which Iran curbed its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of Western sanctions.

“The extension of sanctions by the US Congress is a violation of the deal. We will report it toIran‘s committee, assigned for monitoring the implementation of the deal,” state TV quoted foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying.

Iran‘s most powerful authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in November any extension would breach the deal and threatened retaliation.

Ghasemi, echoing Khamenei’s stance, did not say what action Iran would take, but said in comments reported by state news agency IRNA: “Iran has shown its commitment to its international agreements, but we are also prepared for any possible scenario. We are ready to firmly protect the nation’s rights under any circumstances.”

The ISA had been due to expire on December 31. Lawmakers said it would make it easier for sanctions to be reimposed if Iran violated the deal.

The 2015 nuclear agreement came after years of stand-off between Western nations, which accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, and Tehran, which said its nuclear programme was for energy only. Sanctions imposed over its nuclear programme have badly damaged Iran‘s economy.

The White House had not pushed for an extension of the sanctions act, but had not raised serious objections. Some congressional aides said they expected President Barack Obama to sign it.

The action of Congress did not address the fate of the nuclear pact, which was opposed by Republican lawmakers.

US President-elect Donald Trump railed against the deal during his election campaign, describing Iran as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and dismissed the nuclear accord as “one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen negotiated.”

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