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Rouhani accuses US of breaching Iran nuclear deal as Macron fights to save it

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on the phone for more than an hour Sunday...

Posted: Apr 30, 2018 11:21 AM
Updated: Apr 30, 2018 11:21 AM

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on the phone for more than an hour Sunday, agreeing to work closely to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, according to a statement from the Elysee Palace.

Macron said he wanted to see the original deal preserved but also called for further talks on areas the Trump administration has singled out for criticism, including "the control of nuclear activity beyond 2025," according to the statement.

A readout of the call provided by the Iranian government included an accusation from Rouhani that the US had breached the agreement by criticizing it ahead of President Donald Trump's decision about whether to abandon the deal.

The "current conduct of the United States would be in breach of the JCPOA," Rouhani said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He added that the Trump administration's negative comments about the deal had created "fear and ambiguity for different countries and businesses for their relations with Iran," possibly damaging the country's economy.

Rouhani's comments are likely to further complicate efforts by European countries to keep the US engaged in the deal. Trump has set a May 12 deadline for the US and Europe to address the issues he has with the nuclear deal -- under US law, the President has to recertify the deal every few months.

The Iran deal, orchestrated by the Obama administration and signed in 2015, lifted sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation in exchange for the dismantlement of most of its nuclear program. But conservative leaders in the United States, especially President Donald Trump, have been harshly critical of the deal, calling it "insane."

Rouhani said that even if the deal remained in place despite Trump's objections, it would no longer be acceptable to Tehran if things continue "the way it has been going in the past two years."

However, had also told Macron the deal is "not negotiable," according to the Iranian statement.

"The EU, including France, supports the nuclear agreement and we will stay in the nuclear agreement 100%", Rouhani said.

Complications arise

Macron's conversation with Rouhani followed a flurry of diplomatic activity over the weekend, as the leaders of the United Kingdom and Germany joined their French counterpart in attempting to bolster the original 2015 accord.

Following calls with Macron, both Germany's Angela Merkel and the UK's Theresa May agreed an emphasis had to be placed on avoiding Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"They [the three leaders] agreed that there were important elements that the deal does not cover, but which we need to address -- including ballistic missiles, what happens when the deal expires, and Iran's destabilizing regional activity," a statement from the UK government said.

On Sunday, newly appointed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, again reasserted the US' opposition to the deal in it current form, calling Iran "the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world."

"We are determined to make sure it never possesses a nuclear weapon. The Iran deal in its current form does not provide that assurance," said Pompeo, during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

"We will continue to work with our European allies to fix that deal. But if a deal cannot be reached, the [US] President has said that he will leave that deal," he added.

Pompeo had previously said it was "unlikely" Trump would agree to keep the deal.

Macron's series of high-level calls follow his trip to Washington last week, where he attempted to personally convince Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.

Despite the warm displays of affection between the two leaders, the French President finished his three-day trip to the United States uncertain he had changed the US President's mind.

Macron raised the possibility of negotiating a new, additional deal between the US and Iran, which would address Trump's concerns including Iran's ballistic missile program.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on April 23 it was "either all or nothing" as far as they were concerned.

"European leaders should encourage President Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more importantly to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith," he said on his official Twitter account.

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