Iran's president has lashed out at U.S. President Donald Trump, calling his UN speech "ignorant, absurd, and hateful rhetoric” and saying that Tehran would not be the first to abandon the landmark nuclear deal.
Speaking one day after Trump blasted Iran as a “murderous regime” that was “undermining peace throughout the Middle East,” Rohani said his country is a peaceful one that has chosen the path of moderation and does not seek to restore its ancient empire.
Rohani's comments on September 20 were the latest escalation in a war of words between Washington and Tehran, a fight that has largely focused on the 2015 nuclear deal and Iran’s missile tests.
Rohani told the United Nations that Tehran was not seeking to spread its influence, saying that his country has already conquered the world through its culture and poetry.
“Iran does not seek to restore its ancient empire, impose its official religion on others, or export its revolution through the force of arms,” he said.
“We have reached the shores of this side of the Atlantic through Rumi and spread our influence throughout Asia,” Rohani said, referring to the 13th-century mystic writer whose Persian-language poems are widely read in the West.
“We, therefore, are in no need of new conquests,” he said.
Rohani praised the 2015 deal, which curtailed Tehran's nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of punishing economic sanctions, calling it “a new model for global interactions.”
He said the deal, which was adopted by the Security Council, was "overwhelmingly applauded by the international community.”
"As such, it belongs to the international community in its entirety and not only to one or two countries," he said.
The Trump administration has repeatedly accused Iran of violating the spirit of the deal.
“I declare before you that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement, but it will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party,” Rohani said, without elaborating on Iran’s response.
Rohani said that if Trump pulled out of the deal, it would destroy U.S. credibility.
“It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by 'rogue' newcomers to the world of politics. The world will have lost a great opportunity,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Trump told reporters that he had reached a decision on whether the United States will remain a party to the nuclear accord, but he did not elaborate.
"I have decided. I'll let you know what the decision is," he said.
Two of Trump’s top diplomats have suggested that Washington was not imminently planning to pull out of the deal. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that changes would need to be made before the Trump administration would continue supporting it.
"If we're going to stick with the Iran deal, there has to be changes made to it. The sunset provision simply is not a sensible way forward," he told Fox News on September 19.
But Rohani told reporters on the sidelines of the UN summit that the deal cannot be renegotiated.
"It is an agreement that took over two years of negotiation over every single word and every single sentence," he said.
"We were able to agree on mutually acceptable dates and deadlines, so this agreement is not something you can touch. If you take out a single brick, the entire building will collapse," Rohani said.
The Iranian president also ruled out talks with Washington on renegotiating the agreement.
"An American government that chooses to trample on her legal and legitimate international commitments, a conversation with such a government would be a waste of time," he told reporters on September 20.