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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

President Macron defends the liberal order, reiterates commitment to Iran deal

The French leader's speech generated huge enthusiasm and prompted chants of 'vive la France'

<p>President Emmanuel Macron at&nbsp;a joint meeting of Congress at the US&nbsp;Capitol in Washington. Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg</p>
<p>President Emmanuel Macron at&nbsp;a joint meeting of Congress at the US&nbsp;Capitol in Washington. Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg</p>

President Emmanuel Macron dazzled his audience on Wednesday in an ovation-earning rare address for a foreign leader at the US Congress, where he pleaded for America to maintain its global outlook.

Despite the budding friendship between the French leader and President Donald Trump, including hand-holding and cheek-kissing, Mr Macron’s speech delivered a rebuke to the isolationist and nationalist agenda that Mr Trump ran on during his election campaign.

"We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism...but that will only inflame the fears of our citizens...anger and fear don’t build anything, it weakens us,” Mr Macron said.

The one-hour address concluded with chants of "vive la France" and was attended by members of Congress, while his "good friend" President Donald Trump watched from the White House.

The French leader also defended the climate accords and went as far as predicting that the US would back-pedal on its decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change.

“I’m sure we can work together to fulfill with you the ambitions of the global compact on the environment” he said to a standing ovation. “Let us face it: there is no planet B” the French President added.

He also warned that trade wars could destroy jobs and "hurt the middle class” and without naming Russia, he voiced the need to urgently counter threats against the international order and longstanding pillars of its security and stability, such as the United Nations and NATO.

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Read more:

Comment: The Iran nuclear deal has given Macron his moment in the sun

Why Iran is unlikely to return to the negotiating table

Iran rejects France's call to curb missile programme

Editorial: A new improved Iran deal is imperative for regional stability

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“Closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution to the world” he said and warned that “if we don’t act with urgency as the global community, I am convinced that UN and Nato won’t be able to exist.”

On the Middle East, Mr Macron said the US and France would continue to stand together in Syria, in fighting terrorism and in working toward a political solution for the region.

On Iran, and after touting a joint deal with the US on Tuesday, Mr Macron said France would not abandon the current agreement because they had signed and committed to it. Instead, he added, they would continue to oppose Iran's nuclear weapons capability.

Iran, he said, would never possess nuclear weapons. "Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never.”

Mr Macron reiterated his readiness to work on a larger deal to address Iran’s regional behaviour and ballistic missile programme.

He had not pre-empted Mr Trump’s decision to certify the deal or pull out on 12 May but said that disagreements were to be expected between allies: “it may happen, like in all families.”

Mr Macron’s speech generated huge enthusiasm on the Democratic side, with some suggesting he should run in the 2020 elections.