Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), made the comments in Vienna during an emergency meeting called by the US after Tehran breached the landmark 2015 nuclear deal this week.
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“The United States has imposed economic terrorism against some states, including through imposition of sanctions and extraterritorial application of them,” Gharib Abadi said at the meeting of the UN’s nuclear watchdog.
“The sadistic tendency of the United States to use illegal, unilateral sanctions as an instrument to coerce sovereign states and private entities should come to an end,” he said.
The IAEA confirmed this week that Iran exceeded the stockpile of enriched uranium permitted under the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Iran has said it will disregard certain limits under JCPOA as long as the remaining parties to the deal – in particular, the UK, France and Germany – do not do more to mitigate the effect of the crippling US sanctions.
Gharib Abadi said the current impasse was the result of Washington’s “outlaw behaviour”.
US envoy Jackie Wolcott responded that Iran was engaged in “nuclear extortion”.
“There is no way to read this as anything other than a crude and transparent attempt to extort payments from the international community,” Wolcott said.
President Hassan Rouhani said in May that Iran would roll back its commitments under the deal in stages every 60 days in an effort to force the other parties to deliver on their side of the bargain.
“It was a huge mistake by the Americans to leave the deal,” said Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation. “That has caused all the problems. The European [parties to the deal] had enough time to salvage the pact.”
‘Worst deal ever’?
Russia’s Ambassador to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov said after the meeting the US “was practically isolated on this issue”.
He told the assembled diplomats it was an “oddity” the meeting had been called by the US, “the country that declared the JCPOA to be a terrible deal”.
“In practice, it turns out that Washington is aware of the importance of the [JCPOA],” said Ulyanov.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it was ironic the meeting was called by the US, given it had withdrawn from the nuclear deal last year and “punishes all who observe it”.
In a joint statement, Britain, France and Germany took a nuanced position reflecting their continued diplomatic efforts to save the nuclear deal.
In the past two weeks, Iran has breached two limits central to the 2015 agreement. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday the moves were within the framework of the deal.
The IAEA was unlikely to take any stringent action as it wants its inspectors to remain able to visit and monitor Iran’s nuclear sites.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Vienna, noted Tehran was continuing to allow IAEA inspectors to do their work.
“They’re not walking away from this deal,” he said. “So, there’s still a flicker of hope for European parties trying to keep this deal alive.”
The historic agreement promised sanctions relief, economic benefits, and an end to international isolation in return for stringent curbs on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.
Despite Trump calling it “the worst deal ever”, it successfully halted the programme for years.
Fears of an Iran-US war have grown in recent weeks as tensions escalate.
The US dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group, B-52 bombers, and extra troops to the Middle East to counter what it says are threats from Iran.
Trump said last month he called off a retaliatory military attack on Iran at the last minute after the Islamic Republic shot down a US drone it said crossed into its airspace, a claim denied by Washington.