France defends ‘essential’ Iran nuke deal amid Israeli, US criticism

Ahead of Macron meet with Trump, who has said US could pull out of the accord, FM Le Drian insists Tehran sticking to its terms

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks at a joint press conference with the Turkish foreign minister (not pictured) following a meeting at the Presidential Complex in the Turkish capital Ankara on September 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks at a joint press conference with the Turkish foreign minister (not pictured) following a meeting at the Presidential Complex in the Turkish capital Ankara on September 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

France warned on Monday that sticking to the Iran nuclear deal was “essential” to prevent other countries from seeking nuclear weapons, as the US and Israel pushed for it to be changed or scrapped.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters ahead of the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York that applying pressure on North Korea with sanctions was the only path to address the crisis over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.

France was being “vigilant” in ensuring Iran’s compliance with the terms of the accord and that “all signs are that it’s respecting its commitments,” he said, according to Bloomberg.

He said his country was “trying to convince [US] President [Donald] Trump of the pertinence of this view.”

Le Drian’s defense of the 2015 nuclear accord, which relieved sanctions on Iran in exchange for limitations on its nuclear program, came hours after Trump said the US would walk away from the agreement with Iran and five other nations if it deemed that the International Atomic Energy Agency hasn’t been tough enough in monitoring it.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump (L) during a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Alain Jocard)

The warning from Trump came in a message to the UN agency’s annual meeting, being held in Vienna, that was read by US Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

The United States asserted that Iran is obligated to open its military sites to IAEA inspection on demand if the agency suspects unreported nuclear activities at any of them. That’s something Tehran stridently rejects, and Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi urged the agency and its head, Yukiya Amano, to “resist such unacceptable demands.”

Asserting that Iran is fully complying with terms of the accord, Salehi said the greatest threat to its survival is “the American administration’s hostile attitude.”

He hit out at the US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, for making a “host of unjustifiable, peculiar demands” in talks with IAEA chief Yukiya Amano in Vienna last month.

Theose demands reportedly included that the IAEA inspect military sites in Iran, something that officials in Tehran have consistently rejected.

But Trump, as quoted by Perry, suggested the deal could stand or fail on IAEA access to Iranian military sites, declaring “we will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal.”

Amano also has said the IAEA’s policing authority extends to Iranian military sites, if necessary.

But he said Monday that Iran “is fulfilling the commitments it entered into” under the deal, which took effect early last year and offers sanctions relief in exchange for limits on Iranian nuclear programs that could be turned toward making weapons.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi (L) shakes hands with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano, during their meeting in Tehran on November 11, 2013. (AFP/File Atta Kenare)

“Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime,” he said. “The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented.”

The Trump administration has faced two 90-day certification deadlines to state whether Iran is meeting the conditions needed to continue enjoying sanctions relief under the deal and has both times backed away from a showdown. But with an another deadline looming in October, Trump has said that this time, he does not expect to certify Iran’s compliance.

Ahead of a meeting with Trump Monday and his speech before the General Assembly on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has increasingly criticized the agreement, calling for it to be scrapped or renegotiated.

French President Emmanuel Macron is also set to meet with Trump on Monday.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Sunday that Tehran would not submit to US “bullying.”

“The corrupt, lying, deceitful US officials insolently accuse the nation of Iran… of lying, whereas the nation of Iran has acted honestly and will continue on this path until the end in an honest manner,” said Khamenei.

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