US President Donald Trump says he will announce a decision on Tuesday about the future of an international nuclear agreement with Iran, as Tehran hints it may stay in the 2015 accord even if Washington pulls out.
Mr Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the deal – which lifts economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear ambitions – unless European allies who also signed the deal fix what he has called its shortcomings.
“I will be announcing my decision on the Iran Deal tomorrow from the White House at 2:00pm,” Mr Trump said in a Twitter post on Tuesday morning (AEST).
Under US law, Mr Trump has until May 12 to decide whether to reintroduce US sanctions on Iran, which would deal a heavy blow to the agreement and likely upset Washington’s European allies.
I will be announcing my decision on the Iran Deal tomorrow from the White House at 2:00pm.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2018
Bringing back US sanctions could also trigger a backlash from Iran, which could resume its nuclear arms program or punish US allies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, diplomats said.
Mr Trump has all but decided to withdraw from the accord but exactly how he will do so remains unclear, two White House officials and a source familiar with the administration’s internal debate told Reuters last week.
One of the officials said it was possible Mr Trump would land on a decision that “is not a full pullout,” but was unable to describe what that might look like.
Under the agreement with the US, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, Iran strictly limited uranium enrichment capacity to try to show that it was not trying to develop atomic bombs. In exchange, Iran received relief from economic sanctions.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested on Monday that Iran could remain in the accord even if the US dropped out, but said that Tehran would fiercely resist US pressure to limit its influence in the Middle East.
Mr Rouhani said the Iran had been preparing for every possible scenario, including a deal without Washington – which would still include the other signatories that remain committed to it – or no deal at all.
“We are prepared for all scenarios and no change will occur in our lives next week,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.
“If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal. What Iran wants is our interests to be guaranteed by its non-American signatories … In that case, getting rid of America’s mischievous presence will be fine for Iran.”
Mr Trump’s Iran tweet helped oil prices break $US70 ($90) a barrel to reach their highest level since late 2014.
Britain, France and Germany remain committed to the accord and, in an effort to address US complaints, want to open talks on Iran’s ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 – when pivotal provisions of the deal expire – and its role in the wars in Syria and Yemen.