Thu, May 10, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Europe, China defend nuclear deal

AFP, PARIS

A handout picture made available by the Iranian parliament office shows lawmakers burning a US flag at the parliament in Tehran yesterday.

Photo: EPA

European powers and China yesterday rushed to defend a landmark deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program after US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the agreement and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Trump’s move risks overturning years of diplomacy, worsening instability in the Middle East and threatens foreign companies’ business in Iran worth billions of US dollars.

“The risks of confrontation are real,” French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian said, adding that Europe would act to “avoid the explosion [of conflict] that risks happening if ... no measures are taken.”

Iran reacted furiously to Trump’s decision, with lawmakers burning a US flag and chanting “Death to America” in the Iranian parliament.

However, its regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel applauded the US move.

European powers and key trading power China vowed to save the accord and protect companies operating in Iran.

US national security adviser John Bolton said that European firms doing business in Iran have a six-month deadline to wind up investments or risk US sanctions.

European governments are going “to do everything to protect the interests” of their companies, said an official in the French presidency, who asked not to be named.

However, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran would also quit the nuclear deal unless Europeans offered solid guarantees that trade relations would continue.

“If you don’t succeed in obtaining a definitive guarantee — and I really doubt that you can — at that moment, we cannot continue like this,” Khameini told the Iranian government in a televised speech.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) said that China would maintain “normal economic and trade exchanges” with Iran.

Beijing will “remain in dialogue with all parties and continue to devote itself to safeguard and implement the deal,” he said.

Slapping aside more than a decade and a half of diplomacy by Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and past US administrations, Trump called for a “new and lasting deal.”

Trump described the 2015 pact as an “embarrassment” to the US that did nothing to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

He said that a deal with Iran would have to include not just deeper restrictions on its nuclear program, but on its ballistic missiles and support for militant groups across the Middle East.

“We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction,” he said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran could resume uranium enrichment “without limit” in response to Trump’s announcement, but added that Iran would discuss its response with other parties to the deal before announcing a decision.

In a joint statement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron voiced their “regret and concern” at Trump’s decision.

Bolton said that cooperation with Europe on Iran was not over.

The US will “work with the Europeans and others not only on the nuclear issue, but on Iran’s ballistic missile development, its continuing support for terrorism and its military activities that jeopardize our friends,” he told Fox News.

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