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Iran to continue missile program despite United States sanctions

18 May 2017

Separately, the Treasury Department said it had sanctioned two senior Iranian defense officials, an Iranian company, a Chinese man and three Chinese companies for supporting Iran's ballistic missile program. This may be meant to "undercut the impression that Trump is softening on Iran", The Associated Press wrote.

Trump threatened to tear up the nuclear deal during his campaign and has launched a review of its terms, but until then he is required to decide on renewing sanctions relief at regular intervals.

Stuart Jones, the top US diplomat in charge of the Middle East, said the still forming a "comprehensive Iran policy" that addresses Iran's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and militant groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies nonprofit policy group and an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, argued that the Trump administration was pursuing a "waive and slap" approach that temporarily suspends some sanctions while imposing others.

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in April that Iran was complying with its side of the bargain, but has described the country as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.

The administration of US President Donald Trump chose to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions on Wednesday despite its criticism of the agreement. In a memo to Tillerson and the secretaries of Energy and Treasury, Trump said there's enough oil being produced now by other countries that Iran's output could be reduced without hurting global supplies. But he said that given US commitments under the nuclear deal, "the United States is not pursuing efforts to reduce Iran's sales of crude oil at this time".

"I will continue to monitor this situation closely", Trump added.

Iranians are set to vote Friday in the country's presidential election. President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who oversaw the clinching of the nuclear deal, faces challenges from hard-liners who have stridently criticized the deal.

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One of the Iranian defence officials was involved in explosives sales to Syria.

All in all, there were seven targets of the sanctions.

Iran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons and foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said Thursday its missile programme is part of its "absolute and legal right to build up the country's defensive capabilities".

A network of companies controlled by Chinese national Ruan Runling was also added to the list for supplying gyroscopes and other missile-applicable navigation technology to an Iranian firm. Iran is buying 20 of the ATR 72-600 planes.

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The statement notes the USA extension of sanctions relief on Iran under the nuclear deal, followed by new sanctions on the Islamic Republic for its missile program announced by the Treasury Department on Wednesday, as a way to diminish the positive effects of the implementation of its commitments under the JCPOA.