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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Macron to Trump: we want to work on a new Iran deal 

Although open to new agreement, US president threatens Iran if it resumes nuclear programme

President Donald Trump speaks as he and his French counterpoart Emmanuel Macron walk down the colonnade at the White House following the official arrival ceremony for Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
President Donald Trump speaks as he and his French counterpoart Emmanuel Macron walk down the colonnade at the White House following the official arrival ceremony for Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that they are open to working on a new Iran deal.

Mr Macron emphasised the need to address a number of issues, including putting an end to Iran’s ballistic missile programme and reaching a political solution to the Iranian problem in the region.

"We … wish from now on to work on a new deal with Iran," said Mr Macron, speaking at a joint news conference.

Mr Macron warned against a “unilateral replacement” of the deal and called for a solution that would see Turkey and Russia involved too. "This is the only way to bring about stability," he said.

“It would be possible to do a new deal with new foundations" said Mr Trump.

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However, Mr Trump also warned that if the Iranians "restart their nuclear programme, they will have bigger problems than they've ever had before."

Paris and Washington, said Mr Trump, both agreed that “Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons”.

He also urged Arab states to step up their financial efforts in the areas liberated from ISIS. “Iran must not be able to profit from the anti-ISIL campaign” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, during an oval office meeting between the two leaders, Mr Trump said the 2015 Iran nuclear deal “should have never been made”.

He called the agreement terrible, insane, and ridiculous because of its failure to address Iran's ballistic missile programme and regional role.

The statement touched on the ballistic missile threat, Iran’s role in the region, and the timeline for the expiration of the agreement, known as the sunset clause.

French president Emmanuel Macron and American counterpart Donald Trump meet at the White House in Washington. Ludovic Marin/AFP
French president Emmanuel Macron and American counterpart Donald Trump meet at the White House in Washington. Ludovic Marin/AFP

Addressing Tehran’s regional role, the US president blamed Iran for the region's malaise. “No matter where you go in the Middle East, wherever you go, Iran is behind it.” Iran, he lamented, is “allowed to test missiles all over the place.”

Mr Trump appeared untroubled by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's threat to accelerate the nuclear programme and enrichment levels if the US were to walk away from the deal. "If they restart their nuclear programme, they will have bigger problems than they ever had before.”

Mr Macron was more reserved in his comments, saying the Iran deal would have to be addressed “as part of the broader picture, which is security in the overall region.”

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Ali Vaez, the director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group, told The National that Mr Trump’s comments “do not necessarily mean he will abandon the deal, but it proves that it is unlikely that the US will stabilise the nuclear deal regardless of what compromises the Europeans put on the table.”

He added that Mr Trump’s “animus towards the Iran nuclear deal is not new" but that the possible rejection of the "longstanding European allies’ pleas to keep the US in the deal will undoubtedly hurt transatlantic ties.”

The US is set to make a final decision by May 12 on how they will take the deal forward.