Macron vows to go tough on Iran as Rouhani warns Europe not to violate nuke deal

‘Iran will not have a nuclear bomb,’ French leader says after meeting Netanyahu in Jerusalem; Iranian president counters by vowing his country ‘will never seek nuclear weapons’

France's President Emmanuel Macron, left, meets his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Ludovic Marin)
France's President Emmanuel Macron, left, meets his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Ludovic Marin)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday vowed to be tough with Iran on its nuclear program, as the Islamic Republic’s president warned that it would hold Europe responsible if the 2015 atomic deal collapses.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, the Israeli leader called on Macron to increase pressure on Iran, including the imposition of sanctions following the Islamic Republic’s recent steps back from the pact and its ongoing conventional aggression.

According to Hebrew-language media, Macron responded by saying: “Iran will not have a nuclear bomb. We will not be flexible on the matter.”

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed his country would never seek to acquire nuclear arms, warning European countries not to violate the terms of the nuclear deal, as the United States — and Iran itself — have done.

“We have never sought nuclear weapons… With or without the nuclear deal we will never seek nuclear weapons,” Rouhani said in a statement on his website, according to the Reuters news agency.

“The European powers will be responsible for the consequences of violating the pact,” he added.

Netanyahu’s meeting with Macron kicked off a marathon of bilateral meetings in the framework of this week’s World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which is bringing dozens of world leaders to Jerusalem this week.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu (right) hosts French President Emmanuel Macron at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, January 22, 2020 (Koby Gideon/GPO)

The two leaders held a breakfast meeting which Netanyahu said “focused on very many different topics — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Libya and a few other subjects,” according to a readout of the meeting provided by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The prime minister also raised the situation in Lebanon, including Hezbollah’s efforts to produce precision-guided missiles. The two men also discussed Turkey’s recent involvement in Libya.

Tensions have been soaring with Iran since US President Donald Trump ordered the drone strike in Iraq on January 3 that killed Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani.

In response to the drone strike, Iran fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops. There were no reported casualties at the time but it has since been revealed that eight US troops suffered injuries.

The strike exacerbated tensions between the US and Iran, which have been steadily escalating since Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear accord. The agreement, negotiated under the US administration of Barack Obama, had imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

The US has since imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, including its vital oil and gas industry, pushing the country into an economic crisis that has ignited several waves of sporadic, leaderless protests.

Raphael Ahren and agencies contributed to this report.

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