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Europe backs Iran deal as ‘best way’ to counter nuclear threat

Despite supporting pact, UK, France and Germany say its ‘sunset’ clauses must be addressed, as well as Tehran’s missile program

British Prime Minister Theresa May (C), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron give a press conference following a meeting on the sidelines of the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, on March 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Francois Lenoir)
British Prime Minister Theresa May (C), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron give a press conference following a meeting on the sidelines of the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, on March 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Francois Lenoir)

LONDON — The leaders of Britain, France, and Germany have reiterated their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal “as the best way of neutralizing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran,” the UK prime minister’s office said Sunday.

Prime Minister Theresa May spoke by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday and Sunday, when they agreed the current deal also left out some “important elements,” it said.

“Our priority as an international community remained preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,” it said.

“They 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.

“They committed to continue working closely together and with the US on how to tackle the range of challenges that Iran poses –- including those issues that a new deal might cover.”

The interior of the Arak heavy water production facility in Arak, 360 kilometers (224 miles) southwest of Tehran, Iran, on October 27, 2004. (AP Photo/Fars News Agancy/File)

Both Macron and Merkel held talks in Washington this week with US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to quit the 2015 pact with Iran negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama.

The pair tried to sell Trump on the idea of the deal being a stepping stone to a longer-term, broader agreement, pitching a “four pillars” solution.

The first column is Iran’s nuclear program under the current accord.

The others would target the country’s nuclear activities after 2025, when so-called sunset clauses kick in, beef up global leverage against its regional influence, and curtail its ballistic missile program.

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with National Security Adviser John Bolton, during a meeting with senior military leaders at the White House, April 9, 2018. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Sunday that Trump had not yet decided whether to scrap the pact.

“He has made no decision on the nuclear deal, whether to stay in or get out,” he told Fox News.

Bolton’s comments came as new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, where he said Trump would exit the accord if the US administration “can’t fix it.”

“President Trump’s been pretty clear: This deal is very flawed. He’s directed the administration to try and fix it, and if we can’t fix it he’s going to withdraw from the deal,” said Pompeo at a joint press conference.

Netanyahu, a vocal critic of the nuclear pact, said the deal has only emboldened Iran’s regional “aggression.”

“If people thought that Iran’s aggression would be moderated as a result of signing the deal, the opposite has happened,” he said.

Trump is due to decide by May 12 whether to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran, putting in peril the landmark 2015 accord, which most world powers see as key to preventing Tehran from getting the bomb.

But Trump and America’s Middle East allies argue that the deal was too weak and needs to be replaced with a more permanent arrangement and supplemented by controls on Iran’s missile program.

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