Trump Vows 'Bigger Problems' For Iran If It Restarts Nuclear Program
RFE/RL April 24, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that Iran "will have bigger problems than they have ever had before" if it follows through with threats to restart its nuclear program.
Speaking at the start of a White House meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump called the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers "insane."
He said that the accord -- inked under his predecessor Barack Obama -- does nothing to tackle Tehran's ballistic missiles program or its role in conflicts in the Middle East.
"It just seems that no matter where you go, especially in the Middle East, Iran is behind it; wherever there is trouble -- Yemen, Syria; no matter where you have it Iran is behind it," Trump said. "And now, unfortunately, Russia is getting more and more involved, but Iran seems to be behind everything where there is a problem."
Macron told reporters that the accord was part of a "broader picture" of security in region.
"What we want to do is to contain the Iranian presence in the region," he said.
One of the French president's main objectives during his three-day state visit to Washington is to persuade Trump not to torpedo the deal.
His visit will be followed by one later this week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has also defended the Iran nuclear agreement.
During an open part of his meeting with Macron, Trump said the two could have an agreement soon on the Iran nuclear deal.
He suggested he was open to "doing something" on the Iran agreement as long as it was done "strongly."
At a joint news conference with Trump later in the day, Macron said they had discussed a "new deal" that would address Iran's ballistic missile program, its influence across the Middle East, and what happens after 2025, when -- under the current agreement -- Tehran would be able to progressively restart part of its nuclear program.
The current accord can be seen one "pillar" to which the other elements should be added, Macron said.
Trump said France and the United States agree that Iran "cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon and that regime must end its support of terrorism."
Trump has given the nuclear agreement's European signatories a May 12 deadline to fix what he calls its "terrible flaws," threatening to effectively withdraw the United States by refusing to extend waivers on U.S. sanctions if they do not do so.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Iran signed with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany, put curbs on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Aside from the United States, the other signatories of the agreement have all voiced support for the deal.
Tehran has always claimed that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. It has also warned that it will revive and step up its nuclear program if the deal collapses.
In a speech broadcast live on state television on April 24, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said the United States would face "severe consequences" if it violates the pact.
"I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will firmly react," Rohani told a crowd of thousands in the northeastern city of Tabriz.
"If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences. Iran is prepared for all possible situations," he added.
In an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on April 24 that "if the United States were to withdraw from the nuclear deal, the immediate consequence in all likelihood would be that Iran would reciprocate and withdraw."
"There won't be any deal for Iran to stay in," he added.
At a UN nonproliferation conference in Geneva, Russia's delegate said on April 24 that his country and China have submitted a draft statement voicing "unwavering support" for the deal and hope the draft will receive broad backing at the meeting.
Vladimir Yermakov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's director general for nonproliferation and arms control, told the meeting that the Iran agreement was fragile and any attempt to change it would impact on the global nonproliferation regime.
Yermakov's remarks came a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had agreed with his Chinese counterpart that Moscow and Beijing would try to block any U.S. attempt to sabotage the deal.
Besides the Iran nuclear accord, Trump and Macron were expected to discuss the war in Syria, North Korea, and other issues during a day of meetings at the White House.
In the evening, Donald and Melania Trump will host the French president and his wife, Brigitte Macron at the first state dinner conducted by the U.S. president since his inauguration in January 2017.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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