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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

US seeks to split UK from European allies over Iran

Ambassador Woody Johnson calls on the UK to use diplomatic clout to put pressure on Tehran

Woody Johnson called for a united international front against Iran: AP
Woody Johnson called for a united international front against Iran: AP

The United States has issued a public call to its ally Britain to back its economic and political campaign to punish Iran for backing proxy wars and “malign activities” abroad.

The US ambassador to London, Woody Johnson, said the UK should use its “considerable diplomatic power and influence” to secure a new deal that curtails Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) three months ago in the face of strong lobbying from the UK, European powers, Russia and China, who backed the continuation of the Barack Obama-era deal.

The UK has made it clear that it opposed Mr Trump’s move, one of a number of foreign policy disagreements that have strained relations between the two long-term allies.

In co-ordination with European powers, the UK has continued to work to enable companies to trade with Iran even as Mr Trump has imposed fresh sanctions and warned companies of the dangers of doing business with the country.

Mr Johnson made clear in a newspaper column at the weekend that he wanted the UK to split from the European bloc to work with the US on the package of anti-Iranian sanctions. He said that Iran had squandered the economic benefit from the 2015 nuclear deal to ramp up military spending and expand its terrorist networks.

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“The Iranian regime is spending billions of dollars to destabilise the region. It is backing Assad’s atrocities against the Syrian people,” he wrote in an article for UK’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

“It is launching cyber attacks against Western democracies. It is sponsoring Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. It is arming militants in Yemen. It has publicly stated its quest to destroy Israel.”

Mr Johnson said the Trump administration had spent the last year talking with its closest ally Britain to fix the nuclear agreement.

“The only sensible course of action was to rip it up and build a lasting agreement on more solid foundations,” he wrote.

“Until then, America is turning up the pressure and we want the UK by our side. It is time to move on from the flawed 2015 deal.

“We are asking global Britain to use its considerable diplomatic power and influence and join us as we lead a concerted global effort towards a genuinely comprehensive agreement.”

The article followed comments by Britain's Middle East minister, Alistair Burt, who last week ruled out Britain going along with the policy of the US.

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