November 11, 2019 / 6:28 PM / a month ago

Iran sees lifting of U.N. arms embargo in 2020 as 'huge political goal'

DUBAI (Reuters) - President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday Iran would regain access to the international arms market later next year if it stuck to its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and this would prove “a huge political success”.

FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seen during press conference in Tehran, Iran, October 14, 2019. Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS

However, while a United Nations-imposed arms embargo on Iran is supposed to be lifted in October 2020, five years after the nuclear deal took effect, it is questionable whether that will transpire given the recent unraveling of the accord.

The United States withdrew from the deal in 2018, arguing it was flawed to Iran’s advantage, and has reimposed sanctions crippling Tehran’s oil exports, prompting to retaliate by breaching the deal’s limits on its nuclear capacity.

Iran has said its steps to reactivate uranium enrichment, a pathway to developing nuclear bombs, could be reversed if Washington rescinded sanctions and returned to the deal.

Rouhani held out the prospect of the deal being saved despite its rapid erosion and said a major dividend for Iran would be an end to the arms embargo next year.

“When the embargo...is lifted next year we can easily buy and sell weapons...This is one of those important impacts of this (nuclear) agreement,” Rouhani said, according to state TV.

“By remaining in the deal, we would reach a huge political, defensive and security goal (in 2020) ... It would be a huge political success.”

But U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has warned that a lifting of the arms embargo would let Iran acquire weapons that could fuel conflicts in the Middle East, where Tehran has been involved in proxy wars for decades.

“@HassanRouhani’s best pitch for IRAN staying in the disastrous Iran deal is that it lets the Islamic kleptocrats that lead that country buy and sell drones, missiles, tanks, jets, and more,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Monday. “He will get his wish, unless UNSC extends the arms embargo before it expires 10/18/20.”

But with the nuclear deal crumbling, prospects for a removal of the arms embargo appear to have dimmed, and the United States would wield a veto on any decision by the Security Council.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog reported on Monday that Iran was enriching uranium at its underground Fordow site and rapidly accelerating enrichment more broadly, outlining Tehran’s latest breaches of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Germany said on Monday it along with Britain and France should be ready to consider starting moves to reinstate full United Nations sanctions on Iran over its breaches.

Reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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