WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that after a White House meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, he was “fairly close to understanding” the French position on the need to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.
Mr Macron is in Washington to persuade Mr Trump to keep the 2015 accord negotiated by the Obama administration. President Trump has been threatening not to extend the pact after a May 12 deadline but France, which played a key role in the negotiations, wants it extended.
Besides the US and Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China also signed it as guarantors.
The two presidents met at the White House Cabinet Room with their top advisers and later told the media that their talks focused on the Iran nuclear deal.
Mr Trump said he had a “good discussion” with President Macron on the Iranian nuclear agreement and hinted that side agreements could be negotiated. “We’re looking forward to doing something but it has to be done and it has to be done strongly,” he said without explanation.
“We’re fairly close to understanding each other. Our one on one went very well,” said the US president while responding to a question about the French position on the nuclear pact.
President Macron said: “On Iran, we will look at it in a wider regional context, for example there’s Syria and the situation in the whole region. We have a common objective, we want to make sure there’s no escalation and no nuclear proliferation in the region. We now need to find the right path forward.”
In his earlier remarks to the media, Mr Trump called the Iran deal “a disaster” and “insane” but stopped short of calling for its abrogation, as he did in the past. Instead, he warned Iran of “big problems” if it resumes the nuclear programme it agreed to curb in 2015.
“It won’t be so easy for them to restart,” Mr Trump said when asked how the US would react if Iran resumed its nuclear programme after the deal was scrapped.
“They’re not going to be restarting anything. They restart it they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they’ve ever had before,” he said.
He criticised the Obama administration for concluding a deal which, he claimed, allowed Iran to test missiles. “The Iran deal is a disaster. They’re testing missiles. What’s that all about?” he said.
Mr Trump’s warning followed a statement by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, threatening of “severe consequences” if the US withdraws from the nuclear deal.
Although Mr Rouhani did not specify what retaliatory action Tehran might take, his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Iran could restart enriching uranium.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2018