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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

European MPs urge US Congress to pressure Trump on Iran deal

UK, France and Germany send open letter to US Congress calling for Donald Trump to rethink nuclear position ahead of May 12 deadline

US President Donald Trump at a joint news conference in Palm Beach, Florida. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
US President Donald Trump at a joint news conference in Palm Beach, Florida. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

More than 300 British, French and German parliamentarians on Thursday urged the US Congress to support a landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal or risk "devastating" consequences.

Six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US - negotiated the deal to lift crippling sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limits on Iran's nuclear programme. But in January, President Trump delivered an ultimatum to the EU countries, saying they must “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal” or he would refuse to extend US sanctions relief.

In a joint statement published in the Guardian, Der Spiegel, the New York Times and Le Monde on Thursday, MPs asked Congress to send a message to the Iranian people ahead of the president's May 12 deadline threat to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

"Together, Europeans and Americans have proved that a strong and united transatlantic partnership can bring about a coalition extending to Russia and China, endorsed by the international community," the letter from parliamentarians read.

"But this coalition is now at risk, as the US government moves towards abandoning the JCPOA without any evidence of Iran not fulfilling its obligations."

MPs argue that the short-term effect of the US abandonment would be the end of controls on Iran‘s nuclear programme, "resulting in another source of devastating conflict in the Middle East and beyond".

"The long-term risk is even more serious: lasting damage to our credibility as international partners in negotiation and, more generally, to diplomacy as a tool to achieve peace and ensure security. Abandoning the deal would diminish the value of any promises or threats made by our countries," the MPs wrote.

The letter was signed by Richard Bacon, a UK MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Iran, Omid Nouripour, a Green member of the Bundestag, and Delphine O, a member of the French national assembly.

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Iran has ruled out renegotiating the deal.

US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood said discussions with the three European powers were “intense” ahead of the May 12 deadline. He said Washington had concerns about a failure to address Iran’s ballistic missile programme, ten-year “sunset” clauses for limits on its nuclear activity and Iran’s general behaviour in the Middle East.

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

The US is pushing for broader terms under which UN inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency can visit Iranian sites, whether they are declared to be for civilian nuclear activity or not.

“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,” Mr Wood said.

Iran, which pledged under the 2015 deal not to seek nuclear arms, says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes and its ballistic missiles are solely for defence. It has said it will stick to the accord as long as the other parties do, but will “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out.