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Trump calls Iran a 'corrupt dictatorship' and exporter of violence

US president tells UN General Assembly that Iran nuclear deal is an embarassment, and also threatens to 'totally destroy' North Korea
Trump at the UN General Assembly (Reuters)

Donald Trump on Tuesday called Iran a "corrupt dictatorship" and an "economically depleted rogue state" whose main export was violence, during his first speech to the UN General Assembly.

The US president called the international deal that ended Iran's nuclear weapons programme an "embarassment".

"We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilising activities while building dangerous missiles and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear programme," Trump told the assembly.

Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States

- Donald Trump, US president

"Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it," he said.

"Believe me. It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran's government end its pursuit of death and destruction."

Trump said that the "people of Iran want change," and that Iran's oil wealth was being used to prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and fuel Yemen's civil war.

The Iran nuclear deal has to be recertified by Trump in October.

Speaking after Trump's address, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that the United States would forfeit the trust of the international community if it abandons a nuclear accord with Tehran.  

"If the United States were not to adhere to the commitments and trample upon this agreement, this will mean it will carry with it the subsequent lack of trust of countries towards the United States," Rouhani, who is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, said in an interview with NBC.

In contrast, French President Emmanuel Macron praised the agreement during his speech and said it was inconceivable to abandon it.

"Renouncing it would be a grave error, not respecting it would be irresponsible, because it is a good accord that is essential to peace at a time where the risk of an infernal conflagration cannot be excluded," Macron said.

Macron said he made this clear to Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when he met them on Monday.

Iran and Israeli reactions

Iran responded angrily to Trump's remarks.

"Trump's ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times - not the 21st Century UN - unworthy of a reply," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's lead negotiator for the nuclear agreement, said on Twitter.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unsparing in his criticism of the nuclear pact, though Israeli officials privately admit that having some restrictions on Iran's programme are better than none.

"Change it, or cancel it. Fix it, or nix it," Netanyahu said in his UN speech.

He said the most important change was to eliminate the so-called "sunset" clauses under which some of the deal's restrictions on Iran's nuclear programme expire over time.

Trump threatens to destroy North Korea

In other comments, Trump said the US would "totally destroy" North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies. 

"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea." 

He called North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un "Rocket Man," and said his pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles "threatens the entire world with unthinkable cost of human life".

"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," he said.

"The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary."

North Korea's ambassador to the UN, Ja Song-Nam, left the General Assembly before Trump began his speech.

In his first speech to the UN General Assemby, Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, had earlier said now was the time for statesmanship. 

"Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings." We must not sleepwalk our way into war," he said.

"The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable. But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War."

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