US President Donald Trump, seen here conferring with US ambassador Nikki Haley, chaired a UN Security Council meeting on counter-proliferation, using it to attack Iran
President Donald Trump on Wednesday faced a rebuke of his hardline Iran policy at a UN Security Council meeting that laid bare a rift between the United States and other world powers.
Presiding for the first time over a meeting of the United Nations' body, Trump denounced the "horrible, one-sided" nuclear deal with Iran that he ditched in May, to the dismay of European allies.
A gavel-wielding Trump also took a swipe at China, accusing Beijing of working against his Republican Party in upcoming midterm elections as payback for their growing trade war, a charge China's foreign minister said was "unwarranted."
The United States has moved to reimpose sanctions that had been lifted under the deal to curb Iran's nuclear program and has vowed to isolate Tehran, which it accuses of stoking conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
France however hit back, with President Emmanuel Macron declaring that concerns about Iran cannot be tackled with "a policy of sanctions and containment."
Also defending the 2015 deal which was endorsed in a Security Council resolution, British Prime Minister Teresa May said it "remains the best means of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."
Trump argued that since the deal was signed in 2015, "Iran's aggression only increased" and that funds released from the lifting of sanctions had been used "to support terrorism, build nuclear-capable missiles and foment chaos."
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed that the "rights of all countries to trade with Iran should be respected" after the European Union said a special payment system would be set up to keep alive business ties with Iran.
Iran did not request to speak at the council meeting, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a news conference separately that the United States would eventually rejoin the nuclear deal and pledged Tehran's continued commitment to the accord.
"For the first time, the US president was asking other members not to adhere to a resolution of the very same Security Council over which he was presiding," quipped Rouhani.
"We are not isolated; America is isolated," he said.
Wednesday's meeting highlighted divisions between the United States and its European allies over the Iran nuclear deal, but there was also sharp criticism of Trump's broader foreign policy.
Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales bluntly declared that "the United States does not care about human rights or justice."
If that were not the case, he argued, "it would not abandon the UN human rights council or separate migrant children from their families and put them in jail."
- 'Unwarranted' accusations -
In a blunt attack on China, Trump told the council that Beijing was attempting to interfere in the upcoming elections, hoping to see him suffer a setback because of his tough line on trade.
"They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade," said Trump.
The Republicans could lose control of both the Senate and House of Representatives in November's elections, further imperiling Trump's chances of chalking up legislative achievements.
The Chinese foreign minister responded flatly that Beijing strictly adhered to a policy of non-interference.
"We did not and will not interfere in any country's domestic affairs. We refuse to accept any unwarranted accusations against China," said Wang.
Tensions have soared between Beijing and Washington after Trump this week slapped new tariffs covering $200 billion in Chinese goods exported to the United States.
On North Korea, Trump called for sanctions to be strictly enforced against Pyongyang -- a message directed at Russia and China which are pushing for an easing of punitive measures to reward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Without naming countries, the US president noted that "some nations are already violating UN sanctions" including illegal ship-to-ship transfers of oil and said compliance was "very important."
His comments came shortly before his top diplomat, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, signaled that he would return to North Korea next month to push forward denuclearization talks.
It was only the third time in UN history that a US president chaired a Security Council meeting. Barack Obama presided over two meetings in 2009 and 2014.