Europe

Europe, China back Iran nuclear deal despite US withdrawal

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Efforts have begun to salvage the Iran nuclear deal following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the US.

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has declared the Iran nuclear deal is "not dead" despite US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw.

Other signatories to the 2015 accord - including the UK and China - have also said they remain committed to the deal.

The 2015 agreement curbed Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for lifting sanctions imposed by the US, United Nations and European Union. 

The deal was agreed between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, UK, France, China and Russia - plus Germany. It was struck by Mr Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

China, Russia to stick with deal

China on Wednesday voiced regret over President Trump's decision and vowed to "safeguard" the agreement.

"China regrets this decision made by the US," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.

He said China will maintain "normal economic and trade exchanges".

 

"China calls on all relevant parties to assume a responsible attitude" in order "to return at an early date to the right track of implementing the deal," he said.

"China will continue to uphold an impartial, objective and responsible attitude, remain in dialogue with all parties and continue to devote itself to safeguard and implement the deal."

The spokesman reiterated Beijing's opposition to unilateral sanctions and "long-arm jurisdiction".

Russia's acting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the country remained committed to the deal, Interfax news agency reported.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned the US against trying to undermine the deal after pulling out and said Washington should "spell out" its plans.

"I urge the US to avoid taking any action that would hinder other parties from continuing to make the agreement work," Johnson told parliament, adding that Britain would stay committed to the deal as it remained "vital" to its national security.

Leaders to meet

President Trump poured scorn on the "disastrous" 2015 accord in an address to the nation from the White House on Tuesday.

He described it as an "embarrassment" to the US that does nothing to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions.

In response, the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany will meet with Iranian representatives next Monday "to consider the entire situation," France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio.

French President Emmanuel Macron will also speak with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani by telephone on Wednesday afternoon about "our wish to stay in the agreement," Le Drian said.

File image of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian
File image of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian
AAP

He added that European powers would "try to preserve" the economic benefits Iran has gained from the lifting of sanctions under the deal.

In separate comments, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said that it was "not acceptable" for the US to be the "economic policeman of the planet".

'Bomb threat' 

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

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

"We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement," he claimed.

"We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction and we will not allow a regime that chants 'Death to America' to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth."

Iran's leader Rouhani - whose standing at home now risks being undermined by the deal's collapse - was furious, accusing Trump of "psychological warfare".

Rouhani said Iran could resume uranium enrichment "without limit" in response to President Trump's announcement, but that it would discuss its response with other parties to the deal before announcing a decision.

President Trump's demands and his warning that Iranians deserve better than their current "dictatorship" will fuel suspicions that his ultimate goal is regime change.

"If the regime continues its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before," he warned.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Trump's comments on withdrawing were "silly and superficial".

"I said many times from the first day: don't trust America," Khamenei said. And he added, "I don't trust these three countries," Britain, France and Germany.

Blow for Europe, Obama speaks out

The decision marked a stark diplomatic defeat for Europe, whose leaders begged the US leader to think again.

In a joint statement, Germany's Angela Merkel, Britain's Theresa May and France's Macron voiced their "regret and concern" at President Trump's decision.

Former US president Barack Obama - whose administration inked the deal - made a rare public criticism of his successor.

"The consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America's credibility, and puts us at odds with the world's major powers," he said.

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