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Donald Trump waives Iran nuclear sanctions for third time, warns he won’t do it again

TOP STORIES Donald Trump waives Iran nuclear sanctions for third time, warns he won't do it again

US President Donald Trump has again waived nuclear sanctions against Iran but warned it will be the last time he does so unless a stronger follow-up agreement can be reached within the next four months.

US President Donald Trump extended a sanctions waiver on Iran on Friday, keeping the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in force for at least another four months.

Trump did, however, warn that Friday's waiver would be the last time he was prepared to prevent Congress from putting sanctions in place, unless a significantly strengthened agreement was reached with Iran and the US' European allies within 120 days.

Read more: Iran: Nuclear deal relies on 'full compliance' from US

"This is a last chance," Trump said in a statement. "In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately."

US Congress requires the president regularly recertify that Iran is in compliance with the agreement — a deal Trump has called the worst the US has ever entered into and which he promised to "rip up."

Trump also said he wants to amend US law to make Iran's long-range missile program inseparable from its nuclear program.

The White House has said that such a new deal would also be permanent and not expire after 10 years, as is the case with the current 2015 accord.

"If the president can get that agreement that meets his objective and it never expires, it denies Iran all paths to nuclear weapons forever, not for 10 years, he would be open to remaining in such a modified deal," a White House official said.

However, Iran, and possibly also US allies in Europe that also helped negotiate the accord, are unlikely to agree to such a change.

Following the president's announcement, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Trump of desperately wanting to undermine the deal. "Trump's policy & today's announcement amount to desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement," Zarif tweeted, adding that the deal was "not negotiable."

Trump has reportedly complained behind the scenes that the deal makes the US look weak. Under the agreement — which was signed by China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union — the West lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program.

Trump has come under heavy pressure from European leaders not to walk away from the deal. On Thursday, Britain, France and Germany called on the US to uphold its part of the pact.

Germany's top diplomat, Sigmar Gabriel, described the deal as one of the "core elements of global [nuclear] non-proliferation" efforts, adding that Europe's motivation to keeping it alive was "overwhelming." France's Emmanuel Macron also reportedly called Trump personally stressing the importance of the accord.

US Treasury sanctions Iranian officials

The White House's announcement coincided with a series of new sanctions by the Treasury Department targeting Iranian officials. Among them is the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Amoli Larijani. The White House said the move was a response to Tehran's crackdown on recent anti-government demonstrations, which left 18 protesters dead and thousands under arrest.

Read more: Ayatollah Khamenei slams US 'bullying' Iran on nuclear deal

The new sanctions come on top of previous designations announced back in May and October. Those mainly targeted Iranian defense officials, as well as a China-based network the US says is supporting Iran's missile program.

dm/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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