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Iranian candidate says nuclear deal failed to lift sanctions

Conservative Iranian presidential candidate Mostafa Mirsalim clenches his fist at the conclusion of his news conference in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, April 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian presidential candidate said Sunday the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers has failed to lift sanctions or improve the country’s economy.

Mostafa Mirsalim, a conservative, told a news conference that President Hassan Rouhani’s outreach to the West had failed, adding that “sanctions remained in place and were even intensified.”

Under the nuclear deal, international sanctions were lifted in exchange for Iran curbing its uranium enrichment, but separate U.S. sanctions related to Iran’s ballistic missile program have been tightened.

Mirsalim said that, if elected, he would abide by the nuclear deal. But he said U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration had already undermined the agreement, without elaborating.

Last week, the State Department certified that Iran was complying with the nuclear deal, but Trump, a longtime critic of the agreement, said Tehran was violating the spirit of the accord and that the U.S. might withdraw from it.

Switching to French at one point during the press conference, the France-educated Mirsalim said he wanted to transform Iran into a “safe international hub” for “regional and international dialogue and constructive engagement.”

Rouhani is the front-runner in next month’s election, in which he will face off against five candidates.

Iran’s hard-liners have criticized the nuclear deal, saying Rouhani gave too much away and that the economy remains weak despite the lifting of sanctions.

Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his close ally Hamid Baghaei, both of whom were disqualified from running in the election, said in a joint statement that they will not support any of the candidates. If their supporters remain on the sidelines it could help Rouhani, who enjoys the support of moderates and reformists.

Meanwhile, Rouhani told supporters in the northern city of Qazvin that the election would be a selection between freedom and peace or their opposite, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

“The issue is if the society should be more open or closed,” he was quoted as saying. “Whether we want confrontation with the world and to bring back the ill-omened shadow of war or we want to continue self-respecting engagement with the world.”

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