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Iran vows 'firm response' unless Obama stops sanctions renewal

Meanwhile China has warned against cancelling deal after Trump threatens to 'rip up' agreement once in office
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaking at a news conference 22 September in New York (AFP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has demanded that Barack Obama block an extension of sanctions passed by the US Congress, saying Tehran would otherwise "firmly respond".

In a speech to parliament on Sunday, Rouhani denounced legislation passed by the US Congress to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for 10 years as a violation of Tehran's nuclear deal with six major powers. The deal curbs Tehran's nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international financial sanctions.

"America's president is obliged to exercise his authority by preventing its approval and particularly its implementation ... and if this gross violation is carried out we will firmly respond," Rouhani said in the speech, carried live by state television. Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law, the White House said on Friday.

The US Congress move was a blow to Rouhani, a pragmatist who engineered the diplomatic opening to the West that led to the nuclear deal.

The Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, operation of which comes under the deal (AFPfile)

US officials have said the act's renewal would not infringe the nuclear agreement. US lawmakers have also said the act's extension would make it easier for sanctions to be quickly reimposed if Iran contravened the nuclear deal.

On Sunday, 264 lawmakers in Iran's 290-seat parliament issued a statement calling on the government to implement counter measures, including relaunching nuclear enrichment halted under the atomic deal, the official news agency IRNA reported.

The diplomatic thaw between Washington and Tehran over the past two years looks in jeopardy with US President-elect Donald Trump taking office next month. He said during his election campaign that he would scrap the nuclear agreement.

Last month, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the extension would be viewed in Tehran as a breach of the nuclear accord and threatened retaliation.

Khamenei and his hardline loyalists have criticised the deal and blamed Rouhani for his government's failure to deliver swift improvements in living standards since sanctions were lifted in January.

China warns against ‘tearing up’ deal

Meanwhile, China's foreign minister warned on Monday against cancelling the Iran nuclear deal after US president-elect Trump pledged to rip up the landmark deal once in office.

During the presidential campaign, Trump had called the agreement under which the deal was implemented - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - the "worst deal ever negotiated".

'What is important is to honour commitments and place emphasis on good faith when it comes to differences or possible differences'

- Wang Yi Chinese foreign minister

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal should not be "affected by any changes in the domestic situations" of countries involved.

READ: Iran and Trump: What it means for the Revolutionary Guard

The agreement's implementation is the "joint responsibility and duty of all parties", Yi told a press conference after meeting his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

"What is important is to honour commitments and place emphasis on good faith when it comes to differences or possible differences" over the deal, he said.

The agreement, signed in Vienna in July 2015 and in force since January, was a signature diplomatic breakthrough of Barack Obama's second term. It calls on Tehran to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief from the US and other nations.