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US president Donald Trump takes aim at Iran in United Nations speech

President Donald Trump addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters. Picture by Richard Drew/AP Photo

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has singled out Iran for particularly harsh criticism in his annual address to world leaders at the UN.

He blasted what he called the "corrupt dictatorship" of Iran and accused the government in Tehran of spreading "mayhem" across the Middle East and around the world.

He called out Iran's "bloody agenda" in Syria and Yemen in particular.

No other country faced as much criticism in his speech to the UN General Assembly.

Mr Trump vowed the US would continue to isolate Iran through sanctions that are being reinstated after his withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

His comments followed a tweet in which he said he would not meet Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the General Assembly, although he added he was sure Rouhani "is an absolutely lovely man!"

Mr Trump also accused Iran's leaders of enriching themselves through massive embezzlement.

He later predicted that the pressure from renewed sanctions would force Iran back to the table to negotiate.

"Iran's leaders sow chaos, death and destruction," Mr Trump told the General Assembly in a 34-minute speech.

"They do not respect their neighbours or borders or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead Iran's leaders plunder the nation's resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond."

Repeating his long-standing criticism of the nuclear deal, which was a signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration, Mr Trump called it "horrible".

He maintained that many Middle Eastern countries had supported the decision to withdraw.

In fact, only Israel and Gulf Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates enthusiastically backed the move.

The other parties to the deal, under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, remain in the agreement and plan a meeting later this week in New York to reaffirm their support for it.

Aside from Iran, the other participants are Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the EU.

Mr Trump said the deal was a "windfall" for Iran's leaders who used billions in sanctions relief to boost their military budget, increase repression, fund terrorism, havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen and enrich themselves.

His comments on embezzlement by Iranian authorities come after President Hassan Rouhani's administration publicised details of the country's budget for the first time.

That budget revealed large increases in funding for religious foundations that are a key part of the clerical state-above-the-state, which receive hundreds of millions of pounds each year from the public coffers.

Those foundations, including religious schools and charities, are tied closely to powerful clerics and often serve as machines for patronage and propaganda to build support for their authority.

Mr Trump later told reporters that "everything about Iran is failing right now".

He described its inflation as the worst in the world and its currency, which is trading at all-time lows against the dollar, as a "disaster".

Mr Trump, speaking to reporters as he met Colombia's president, said Iran's leadership will "at some point" want to talk or risk exacerbating their economic crisis.

"I think that at some point we will have meaningful discussions and probably do a deal," he said.

"I don't see how it works for them otherwise. Because otherwise, they're going to be in the worst economic trouble of any country in the world."

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