US top envoy accuses Iran of 'alarming provocations'

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White House concerned about Teheran as sponsor of terrorism as it reviews nuclear policy

WASHINGTON US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has accused Iran of "alarming ongoing provocations" to destabilise countries in the Middle East as the Trump administration launched a review of its policy towards Teheran.

Mr Tillerson told reporters on Wednesday that the review will not only look at Teheran's compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal, but also its behaviour which undermined US interests in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

His tough talk matched those of US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, who had said that Iran's destabilising influence has to be overcome to end the conflict in Yemen.

US President Donald Trump ordered the review to evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to the 2015 deal was "vital to the national security interests of the US", Mr Tillerson said.

Though there was no sign the Trump administration intended to walk away from the deal, Mr Tillerson twice cautioned that if left unchecked, Teheran could become like North Korea, which is also under pressure over its nuclear ambition.

In a letter to US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan released late on Tuesday, Mr Tillerson declared that Iran was meeting its commitments under the 2015 deal, but there were concerns about Teheran's role as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Mr Tillerson said the 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers failed "to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran and only delays its goal of becoming a nuclear state".

Iran has yet to comment on the White House's review, but Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned last November that Teheran will retaliate if the US breached the deal.

Mr Tillerson said one of the mistakes in the way the deal was put together was that it ignored all the other serious threats Iran posed outside of its nuclear programme.

"That is why we have to look at Iran in a very comprehensive way in terms of the threats it poses in all areas of the region and the world," he added. "This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat we face from North Korea."

The deal, negotiated under Mr Barack Obama, placed limitations on Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for lifting economic sanctions against it.

Mr Trump had previously called the accord "the worst deal ever negotiated". - REUTERS

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