January 21, 2020 / 1:15 PM / a month ago

U.S. decries Iran threat to withdraw from global nuclear treaty

FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif speaks with the media on the sidelines of a security conference in New Delhi, India, January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Alasdair Pal

GENEVA (Reuters) - A U.S. envoy said on Tuesday that Iran would be sending a “very, very negative message” if it quits the 1970 global nuclear non-proliferation treaty after European countries accused it of violating a separate 2015 deal with world powers.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Monday that Tehran would withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if Europeans continued with what he called “their improper behavior” or refered Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its alleged violations of the 2015 deal.

Robert Wood, U.S. disarmament ambassador, noting talks set for April in New York on the NPT, told reporters in Geneva: “Here we are on the eve of a review conference that Iran is threatening to walk away from.”

“We think that Iran needs to end its malign behavior and sit down with the United States and negotiate an agreement that deals not only with the nuclear issue but also with the other issues that concern us like the ballistic missile proliferation and development and the malign activities around the world,” he said.

Tensions have steadily escalated since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers in 2018 and reimposed U.S. sanctions. The standoff erupted into an exchange of military strikes in the past month. s month.

Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, later took the floor and said Iran’s nuclear program had always been peaceful.

“It continues to be under unprecedented scrutiny of the IAEA for the past year,” he said, referring to the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency which deploys inspectors at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the JCPOA, had been “crafted as a confidence-building measure to alleviate any concerns, real or concocted, over the nature of our program”, he said.

The United States and it Western allies have long accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran insists it has never sought nuclear arms and never will, saying its nuclear work is for research and to master the process to generate electricity.

Reporting by Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay; writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams and Angus MacSwan

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