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Trump weighs 'decertifying' Iran nuclear deal

[WASHINGTON] US President Donald Trump has railed against a deal to curb Iran's nuclear programme, but officials say that far from scrapping it, he is considering kicking the decision to Congress.

Ahead of an Oct 15 deadline, several officials familiar with White House deliberations told AFP Mr Trump has made it clear he does not want to certify Iran's compliance with the accord.

The 2015-era Obama agreement offered Teheran relief from punitive economic sanctions, in return for limits to uranium enrichment and intrusive inspections.

Every 90 days Mr Trump must decide whether Iran is living up to its end of the bargain, something that has already caused him political pain on two occasions.

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The Trump administration has publicly accused Iran of violating the "spirit" of the accord - known as the JCPOA - although some officials privately admit there is a thin line between testing the limits and a material breach.

Mr Trump's top military adviser, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, James Dunford, has told Congress the briefings he has received "indicate that Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations".

But Republicans are under domestic political pressure to fulfil campaign and donor promises to scrap the accord.

Mr Trump has called the deal an "embarrassment to the United States" and had urged allies and fellow signatories in London, Paris and Berlin to renegotiate it, something they are unwilling to do.

But now a middle path is being explored, which would make Mr Trump's opposition clear, but stop short of scrapping the deal outright and perhaps clear the 90-day-review off his desk.

Under the plan, Mr Trump could find Iran in breach or - less provocatively - refuse to certify Teheran's compliance, giving Congress 60 days to decide whether to impose sanctions.

The issue has prompted fierce debate inside the administration, and with this mercurial president, anything is still possible between now and the deadline.

AFP