U.S., France to discuss Iran nuclear deal next week


By Middle East Affairs

European signatories of the 2015 international nuclear deal have yet to agree on a plan to meet U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands, but Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron will meet anyway on Tuesday at the White House to discuss it, Reuters reported.

A U.S. official told reporters that the two will also discuss the joint military strike on Syria this month after the government allegedly attacked citizens with chemical weapons.

The agreement – signed by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and Iran – is in danger of falling apart if Trump’s demands aren’t met by May 12, which is when he is scheduled to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran.

The deal was cemented under former president Barack Obama’s administration and ensured that in exchange for relief on sanctions that crippled its economy, Iran would curb its nuclear missile program. However, Trump has threatened to pull out if the France, Britain and Germany – nicknamed E-3 – don’t address what he calls terrible flaws in the deal.

The three countries have been pressing the European Union to introduce new sanctions on Iran, mostly against individuals who back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his seven-year civil war on rebel groups. Their hope is that the sanctions will encourage Trump to stay in the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“The Europeans, E-3 in particular, have been working hard in trying to address some of our most important or prominent concerns having to do with Iran’s ballistic missile program, for example, the sunset clause in the JCPOA and so on,” the senior administration official said Friday. “That work is not quite done yet.”

On Thursday, Reuters reported U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood as saying that the United States was concerned about Iran’s ballistic missile program, the 10-year sunset clauses for the limits on its nuclear activity, and its meddling in Middle Eastern conflicts.

“These issues have to be dealt with. We are hopeful that an agreement can be reached that the president can feel comfortable with,” Wood said at a news conference in Geneva.

The United States has also been pushing for U.N. inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to have more access to Iranian sites.

“We want the IAEA to get access to all the sites they need to. The Iranians obfuscate and deny, say they’ll offer access and then deny it. It’s important for the IAEA to go anywhere it needs to, including military sites,” Wood said.

Iran says its ballistic missiles would only be used for defense purposes. It also said it would “shred” the nuclear deal if Washington pulls out.

Speaking in New York, Iranian state TV quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying: “Iran has several options if the United States leaves the nuclear deal. Tehran’s reaction to America’s withdrawal of the deal will be unpleasant.”


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