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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The United Nations' highest court has ordered the United States to lift sanctions on Iran that affect imports of humanitarian goods and products and services linked to the safety of civil aviation.
President Donald Trump moved to restore tough U.S. sanctions in May after announcing he was withdrawing from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. Iran challenged the sanctions in a case filed in July at the International Court of Justice.
In a preliminary ruling in the case, the court said Wednesday that Washington must "remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from" the re-imposition of sanctions to the export to Iran of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities and spare parts and equipment necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation.
The U.S. is expected to challenge the court's jurisdiction in a future hearing.
The economic impact of sanctions has already triggered protests in Iran, some of which have been broken up by security forces using tear gas.
Iran alleges that the sanctions breach a 1955 bilateral agreement known as the Treaty of Amity that regulates and promotes economic and consular ties between the two countries.
The treaty was signed when the U.S. and Iran were still allies following the 1953 revolution — fomented by Britain and the U.S. — that ultimately cemented the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Diplomatic relations were severed following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and takeover of the U.S. Embassy and ensuing hostage crisis. However, the treaty remains in force.
Wednesday's ruling could set up another clash between the Trump administration and a Hague-based court.
Last month, Trump's national security advisor, John Bolton, denounced the International Criminal Court — a separate and unrelated institution based just a few miles away from the International Court of Justice.
The ICC prosecutes people accused of war atrocities while the ICJ settles disputes between nations.
Bolton said last month that "for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us."