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The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, accused Iran of ‘alarming and ongoing provocations’

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad-Javad Zarif, has criticised the US after his counterpart, Rex Tillerson, said Tehran was creating “alarming and ongoing provocations” to destabilise countries in the Middle East.


Tillerson stepped up his rhetoric on Wednesday, telling reporters in Washington that the US was conducting a government-wide review of its Iran policy. He also called the landmark nuclear deal in 2015 a failure and accused Tehran of following in the footsteps of North Korea.


Tillerson’s remarks contrasted with a letter he wrote to the speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, a day earlier in which he confirmed Iran was upholding its commitments under the deal, known as the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA).


Under the agreement struck in Vienna in 2015, Iran rolled back its nuclear programme, reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium and removing thousands of centrifuges and the core of the heavy water reactor in Arak.


In return, the US and EU ended all related economic sanctions on Iran in January 2016 after the UN nuclear agency confirmed the country had fulfilled its obligations. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest assessment, Iran is still keeping to its commitments, but Tehran complains that it has not been able to fully reconnect to the global banking system.


Tillerson said “an unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea”, and that the nuclear deal had failed to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in the future. It “only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state”, he said.


“The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran,” he told reporters.


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