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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

US says UN has no jurisdiction in nuclear sanctions case

Washington urges judges to reject Tehran’s request for suspension of sanctions

On August 27, Iran opened a lawsuit against renewed sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump demanding the International Court of Justice order their suspension. Jerry Lampen / EPA
On August 27, Iran opened a lawsuit against renewed sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump demanding the International Court of Justice order their suspension. Jerry Lampen / EPA

The United States has said that its new sanctions against Iran after pulling out of the landmark nuclear accord is legal and a measure that Tehran cannot challenge at the United Nations’ highest court.

US State Department legal adviser Jennifer Newstead told judges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the 1955 treaty under which Iran has challenged the new restrictions “cannot ... provide a basis for this court’s jurisdiction”.

She urged them to reject an urgent request by Iran to order the suspension of sanctions that US President Donald Trump reimposed in May.

"Iran is endeavouring to use the procedures of the Treaty of Amity to enforce rights that it claims under an entirely different [agreement] that specifically excludes judicial remedies," she said.

Ms Newstead said US-Iranian disagreements should be resolved through diplomacy and not by the court.

Iran filed a case with the court in July challenging the reimposition. Tehran alleges that the sanctions breach a 1955 bilateral agreement known as the Treaty of Amity that regulates and promotes economic and consular ties between the two countries, which have been sworn enemies for decades.

That treaty was signed while both countries were still allies. But ties between the two were cut following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the takeover of the US embassy and the following year-long hostage crisis.

Washington argues Tehran is using the treaty as a pretext to go to court.

The legal to-and-fro comes after Iran warned on Monday that the new sanctions would cripple its economy and raise tensions in the Middle East.

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Iranian representative Mohsen Mohebi told the court that Mr Trump’s sanctions policy was “nothing but a naked economic aggression against my country”.

But Mike Pompeo, Mr Trump’s Secretary of State, called the claims made by Iran “meritless” and said the restrictions were a matter of national security.

The American president said he withdrew the US from the nuclear deal because of not only Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions, but its funding of proxy groups across the Middle East. That deal, agreed in 2015, imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Iran’s defence minister said on Sunday that his country would continue to back the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to help him seize back control of the country. The US and Israel accuses Iran of seeking to establish its military in Syria near the Israeli border.

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