UNITED NATIONS — Iran’s president warned the United States on Thursday that his country will “respond decisively” to any violation of the agreement that reins in Tehran’s nuclear program and called U.S. President Donald Trump’s “ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric” about Iran unfit to be heard at the United Nations.
In remarks clearly directed at Trump’s 8-month-old administration, Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani told the U.N. General Assembly: “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, but such unfortunate behavior will never impede Iran’s course of progress and advancement,” Rouhani said.
His speech came a day after Trump, in his own address to the assembly, called the U.N.-backed Iran nuclear deal “an embarrassment” to the United States.
And he hinted that his administration, which has accused Tehran of aiding terrorism in the Middle East, could soon declare Iran out of compliance with the deal, which could unravel it.
“I don’t think you’ve heard the end of it, believe me,” Trump said.
Rouhani retorted that “the ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric, filled with ridiculously baseless allegations, that was uttered before this august body yesterday” didn’t befit an organization established to promote peace and respect among nations.
In a later tweet, he made clear that the comments were directed at Trump.
The Iranian president said his country would not be the first to breach the nuclear agreement, “but it will respond decisively to its violation by any party.”
Iran has accused the Trump administration of not living up to its requirements on sanctions relief under the nuclear deal, and Rouhani said the U.S. was harming itself.
“By violating its international commitments, the new U.S. administration only destroys its own credibility and undermines international confidence in negotiating with it or accepting its word or promise,” he said.
Rouhani spoke on a day when dozens of other nations began signing the first treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a pact spurned by nuclear powers.
Forty-two states put their names on the pact within an hour after a signing ceremony opened, and more were added afterward. Guyana, the Vatican and Thailand also have already ratified the treaty.
If 50 countries ratify it, the treaty would take effect for those that did so, requiring them not to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons “under any circumstances.
“This treaty is an important milestone towards the universally held goal of a world free of nuclear weapons” at a time of increasing concern about their risk, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said as he opened the signing ceremony.
More than 120 countries approved the nuclear ban in early July over strong opposition from nuclear-armed countries and their allies, who boycotted the negotiations.
Supporters of the pact say it’s time to push harder toward eliminating atomic weapons than nations have done through the nearly 50-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“For decades, nuclear weapons have remained the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited, despite their immense destructive power and threat to humanity,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. She said that with tensions growing between the U.S. and North Korea over the North’s nuclear program, the need for the treaty is even greater.
North Korea’s race to develop nuclear weapons that could hit the United States dominated Tuesday’s opening ministerial session of the assembly.
Trump threatened to “totally destroy” the Asian nation if the U.S. is forced to defend itself or its allies against aggression. Guterres warned that the threat of a nuclear attack is at its highest level since the end of the Cold War and “fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.”
But nuclear powers say a ban on the weapons won’t work.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that France refused to take part in negotiations on the treaty because it can only weaken the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. He called the nuclear ban treaty “wishful thinking” that is “close to irresponsible.”
Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said supporters of the treaty regretted the nuclear-armed nations’ position.
“We call upon them to join this date with history,” he said.
Also Wednesday, the Security Council held a high-level meeting on its far-flung peacekeeping operations.
Members approved a resolution that would recognize “the primacy of politics” including mediation, monitoring cease-fires and assisting the implementation of peace accords in the U.N.’s approach to resolving conflicts. The draft resolution also underscores the need to enhance the overall effectiveness of peacekeeping operations and “the critical importance of improving accountability, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness.”
EDITH M. LEDERER