US, France could agree soon on Iran nuclear deal: Trump

US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte at the White House on Monday. Mr Macron aims to persuade the US leader to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, at least for now.
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte at the White House on Monday. Mr Macron aims to persuade the US leader to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, at least for now. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He had earlier called pact ‘insane’ ahead of meeting with Macron

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump said yesterday that he and Mr Emmanuel Macron could have an agreement soon on the Iran nuclear deal which he had called “insane” just before his White House meeting with the French President.

“I think we really had some substantive talks on Iran. And we’re looking forward to doing something,” Mr Trump told reporters in brief comments shortly after emerging from the meeting.

“We could have at least an agreement among ourselves very quickly. I think we’re fairly close to understanding each other.”

Earlier, Mr Trump warned Iran not to restart its nuclear programme as Mr Macron urged him to remain in the international agreement curbing the Islamic republic’s atomic efforts. Making his differences with Mr Macron clear, he said the Iran deal was “insane, ridiculous, should never have been made”.

“If they (Iran) restart their nuclear programme, they’re going to have bigger problems than ever before,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Macron arrived on Monday at the White House for the first state visit of Mr Trump’s presidency, intent on using his unusual bond with the US President to try to persuade him to preserve the Iran deal, at least for now.

The French leader urged Mr Trump to consider the nuclear deal “in a wider regional context”, including the situation in Syria, where the US, France and Britain recently launched a joint strike to retaliate against the regime’s use of chemical weapons on rebels.

COMMON GOAL 

We have a common objective. We want to make sure there’s no escalation and no nuclear proliferation in the region. We now need to find the right path forward. ’’ 

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON

“We have a common objective,” Mr Macron said. “We want to make sure there’s no escalation and no nuclear proliferation in the region. We now need to find the right path forward.”

The visit comes weeks before a May 12 deadline set by Mr Trump to “fix” the Iran agreement or walk away from it.

Under the nuclear agreement, signed in 2015 by then US President Barack Obama, Iran has curbed its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

But Mr Trump and other critics have assailed the deal because it begins to expire after a decade and does not block Iran’s missile development or stop it from destabilising the region.

A senior Iranian official threatened yesterday that Teheran might quit a treaty designed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons if the US scraps the nuclear accord.

“This is one of three options that we are considering,” said Mr Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, in response to a question about the possibility of Teheran withdrawing from the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also warned Mr Trump to stay in the nuclear deal, or face “severe consequences”.

Russia and China have asked United Nations member states to back a draft statement expressing “unwavering support” for the Iran nuclear deal, a senior Russian diplomat said yesterday, in a bid to put pressure on Mr Trump not to withdraw from it.

Mr Macron’s mission this week is also to persuade Mr Trump to exempt European nations from metal tariffs that are part of the US President’s plan to reduce chronic trade deficits with countries around the world, chiefly China.

Yesterday, the US leader said a trade agreement with China is likely and that officials from both sides would sit down for negotiations in a few days.

Mr Macron is also keen to temper Mr Trump’s instinct to precipitously pull the US military out of Syria.

Today, Mr Macron, now sometimes dubbed the “Trump whisperer”, will demonstrate his English- language skills – a rarity for a French president – in an address to a joint session of Congress.

NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline 'US, France could agree soon on Iran nuclear deal: Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe