WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration keeps one of the last remaining components of Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement alive, extending sanctions exemptions that allow foreign companies to work with Iran's civil nuclear program without US penalties.
The resignations were due to expire on Tuesday, but were extended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for another 90 days. Extensions were not announced until Thursday.
Pompeo was champion of President Donald Trump's maximum pressure campaign in Iran.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the measure "will help preserve oversight of Iran's civilian nuclear program, reduce proliferation risks, restrict Iran's ability to reduce its 'downtime'. # 39; to a nuclear weapon and will prevent the regime from reconstituting sites for proliferation-sensitive purposes. "
Pompeo also announced new sanctions on Iran's construction sector, which he considers to be under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The IRGC was designated earlier this year as a "foreign terrorist organization".
Trump withdrew last year from the nuclear deal and steadily increased sanctions against Iran, which were eased under the deal. But the so-called "civil nuclear cooperation" exemptions will allow European, Russian and Chinese companies to continue working at Iran's nuclear facilities.
Critics of nuclear deals, including Trump's allies like Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas have long argued that waivers should be revoked because they give Iran access to technology that could be used for weapons. In particular, they targeted a waiver that allows conversion work at Fordow's once-secret location. Other facilities are the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Arak heavy water plant and the Tehran research reactor.
"This is disappointing and another missed opportunity to break the catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal once and for all," Cruz and Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a statement. "President Trump must immediately order his government to stop issuing civil nuclear exemptions."
They said they would soon move forward in legislation "to reverse this mistaken decision."
Supporters of the deal say the resignations give international experts a valuable window into Iran's atomic program that might otherwise not exist. They also say that part of the work, especially on nuclear isotopes that can be used in medicine in the Tehran reactor, is humanitarian in nature.
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