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Iranian leader: Nuclear accusations putting European troops in danger

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech Wednesday France, Britain and Germany have exposed their troops to danger in the Middle East. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech Wednesday France, Britain and Germany have exposed their troops to danger in the Middle East. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday European soldiers in the Middle East could now be in danger due to a dispute filed this week by Britain, France and Germany accusing Tehran of violating the 2015 nuclear deal.

The nations triggered the dispute mechanism Tuesday, saying Iran has violated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. All three were signatories to the agreement, and the action opens Tehran to potential international sanctions.

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"Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger," Rouhani said in a speech Wednesday.

Rouhani's remarks were the first to threaten European forces in the region. Iran has previously issued similar threats against U.S. troops, arguing the American military is a corrupting and destabilizing force in the Middle East.

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U.S. and European troops are stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, France has a naval base in Abu Dhabi and British forces are in Bahrain.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif added that the JCPOA dispute mechanism is meant to resolve issues, and said the nuclear deal is still active.

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Iran has taken multiple steps away from the agreement over the past year, including surpassing the pact's limit for enriched uranium stockpiles.

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Rouhani's address came at a time of deteriorating relations between Tehran and the United States. The U.S. military killed an Iranian commander earlier this month, for which Iran retaliated by attacking two American bases in Iraq. Around the time of the strikes, Tehran also accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner and killed 176 people.

Wednesday, Zarif said the Iranian public was misled about the cause of the crash, adding that the Revolutionary Guard knew immediately the plane was hit by a missile. The shootdown has led to large-scale protests and demands for the removal of religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"In the last few nights, we've had people in the streets of Tehran demonstrating against the fact that they were lied to for a couple of days," Zarif said.

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also opposes the presence of U.S. forces. Wednesday, he called on Iraqis to stage a "million-man march" to drive the American military out of the region. Iraqi parliament has also passed a nonbinding vote to expel U.S. troops, who have been helping Iraq fight the Islamic State terror group.

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